Rolled out of bed today determined to write a blog about the future of America, as it will be determined in the 2018 and 2020 elections. The strands: How to stop right wing populism? Is it a culture problem or is it an economics problem? Some tentative asnwers: It’s not only about what Democrats can do to expand their base, but it’s about what post-Trump Republicans can do to advocate a smarter, less neandrathal agenda.
While wading through all that, I came across a term in a scholarly journal that was new to me, one that even has an acronym. Social Dominance Orientation (or SDO) is a concept used extensively by political scientist Diana Mutz in her much-discussed article that advocates for the culture explanation of Trump’s win. SDO, she writes, is most often used “as an indicator of a stable personal trait indicating animus toward outgroups, but those high in SDO also are known to oppose trade and foreign direct investment out of a desire to dominate other countries.”
What a strange social/psychological constuct! However, Mutz uses SDO to develop her argument that economic stagnation was not the prime reason for Trump’s big win with working class, but rather it was the status anxiety provoked by the rise of the non-white, non-Christian population. Similarly, the white working class, she argues, feel their SDO being threatened by the rise of globalization and Chinese economic influence.
If you’re still with me, here’s my aha. This SDO concept does really help explain the appeal of Trump’s America First jingoism, as manifested to the extreme yesterday in the announcement about the Iran deal. This was a moment of perfect political theater for a constituency that wants to see America on top again, breaking away from generations of a sober globalized agenda. Does the average Trump voter care all that much about the details of breakout time and application of sanctions? I don’t think so — but it feels good to just tell everyone to get lost and to get touch on a bunch of Radical Islamic Terrorists.
As Mutz writes: “Public opinion on trade in particular has been assumed not to matter, because politicians are not held accountable for low salience issues (57). Trump’s emphasis on these particular issues in his campaign increased the salience of international affairs. In politicizing these issues, he put greater distance between the candidates of the two parties on international issue.”
She concludes: “The 2016 election…was an effort by members of already dominant groups to assure their continued dominance and by those in an already powerful and wealthy country to assure its continued dominance.”
Or, MASDA (Make Americans Socially Dominant Again).