Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming book “American Extremist: The Psychology of Political Extremism”.


Central to both the modern American identity, to the problems the United States faces, and highly relevant to our previous discussion of false collective fictions (https://radixjournal.com/2020/05/myth-mental-illness-and-political-extremism/), is the notion of democracy.  Democracy, which in practice operates a whole lot less like a mechanism for political efficiency and a lot more like a blunt object to be wielded against ones foes, is to a degree, predicated on stymieing the execution of political will by a central authority.  Deeper than a mere political problem, the philosophy of democratization in all spheres continues to challenge Americans on a psychological level.  This rejection of authority can be found at every level of contemporary American life to such a degree, that one wonders whether anti-authoritarianism is itself a key psychological feature of the American population.  I probably would not have given this idea very much consideration were it not for a broadcast on the NPI/RADIX YouTube channel that aired on April 8th of 2020.  In that conversation, Richard Spencer discussed the cynical (if not outright hysterical) response of many Americans toward the federal government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Forced business closures and a federally imposed lockdown drew considerable outrage, as many Americans looked upon Trump’s response as a massive abuse of government power.  While I was not unfamiliar with anti-authoritarianism conceptually, upon looking into the literature available on the matter, I was quite surprised at the volume of writings on the subject.  Further investigation drove me to pursue this line of questioning even deeper.  While his insight did give me pause, I believe I have arrived at a different conclusion than the one proposed on his program, as it seems evident to me that reducing the psychology of the governed to either simple authoritarianism (as was done by researchers such as Theodor Adorno in the mid-twentieth century) or simple anti-authoritarianism betrays the fact that Americans struggle to find an actionable equilibrium between the two positions.

Before we analyze the psychological divide between authoritarian and anti-authoritarianism in American consciousness, it would be prudent to consult the expert opinion on the matter.  Noted authors on the subject of anti-authoritarianism including Bruce Levine, Noam Chomsky, and William Kreml, generally agree on a definition of anti-authoritarianism which rejects both anarchic anti-authoritarianism as well as the kind of authoritarian submissiveness described by the likes of Theodore Adorno, Robert Altemeyer, and Erich Fromm.  In the view of the latter (and those who accept their hypothesis), authoritarianism – meaning, the individual who is prone to fascistic sentiment, and thus will submit to authority – is defined by characteristics such as:

  1. Submission to legitimate authority, 
  2. Aggression toward minority groups, 
  3. Adherence to cultural values endorsed by authorities, 
  4. Blind allegiance to convention,
  5. A tendency toward misanthropy, 
  6. A preoccupation with violence and sex, 
  7. Feelings of inferiority,
  8. Hostility toward creativity and artistic innovation.

While the psychological measurements devised to produce such findings (in particular the F-scale and the RWA scale) have been subject to much scrutiny, the conclusions drawn from these investigations have reached a degree of cultural saturation that no longer relies on the support of the academic community.  Contempt for politically authoritarian sentiment is now commonplace – not only among those well-situated members of the American economy, but all the way down the socioeconomic ladder as well.  To Richard’s point, it would seem the battle against authoritarianism has been won.  In the intervening decades, having exhausted opportunities for experimentally measuring right-wing authoritarianism (and still reluctant to examine left-wing authoritarianism) many researchers pivoted from understanding the psychology of the authoritarian to arriving at an accurate conceptual (and ethical) model of anti-authoritarianism.

For Levine and Chomsky in particular, anti-authoritarianism is not about a predisposition against authority, but rather, an antagonism toward illegitimate authority.  To this point, I will quote both.  Chomsky has said that, 

“When you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification.”

Levine echoes this sentiment, 

“Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.”

Levine and Chomsky both make rational arguments in support of a high-functioning and psychologically adaptive anti-authoritarianism.  Of importance is the fact that their stance directly opposes the chaotic anarchism which rejects all top-down and hierarchically organized models of authority (a position more commonly taken by communists, anti-fascists, and the anti-colonialism movement more broadly).

Less directly related (though perhaps still worth noting), are the findings of Cantoni, Yang, Yuchtman, and Zhang, who in a 2016 study set out to define the characteristics of the anti-authoritarian.  In a survey of over 1,500 university students in Hong Kong, the team found that anti-authoritarians are

“More risk-seeking, more altruistic, more reciprocal, and have a stronger preference for redistribution in a series of real-stakes dictator games.”

Furthermore, when examining the personality traits through an application of the five factor model, their investigation revealed that anti-authoritarians score higher on trait openness but lower on trait conscientiousness.  The same group scored higher on the Cognitive Reflection Test (based on the work of Shane Frederick and Daniel Kahneman, the CRT is a measurement of one’s ability to access “system 2” cognition), but also reported lower average GPA’s.  This was attributed to a pre-occupation with political movements engaged in anti-authoritarian action.  Cantoni et al also noted that,

Consistent with traditional, class-based models (e.g., Acemoglu and Robinson, 2006), students from poorer households and with lower anticipated future earnings are significantly more likely to be anti-authoritarian. Examining the demographic characteristics of students, one sees that older students are somewhat more anti-authoritarian than younger students, and that men are more anti-authoritarian than women. Interestingly, having a longer family history in Hong Kong is not strongly associated with anti-authoritarianism.”

It goes without saying that the historical, political, and biological differences that distinguish the United States from Hong Kong make any direction comparison or correlation in anti-authoritarian characteristics difficult, if not impossible, to do.  Nonetheless, it would behoove us to consider how these observations might lead to some insight as we continue our analysis in this work.  The common understanding of authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism tends to place the former in the category of the political right, while the latter is typically conceived of as a left-wing phenomenon.  In the American context, this may seem at least partly accurate, as psychometric testing has indicated that openness to experience predicts left-wing attitudes while conscientiousness predicts right-wing attitudes (Webster, 2018).  These findings have been corroborated in Europe as well, in particular Spain, Greece, Poland, Italy, and Germany (Vecchione, Schoen, Castro, Cieciuch, Pavlopolous, & Caprara, 2011).  Economically favorable attitudes toward reciprocity and redistribution have long been features of American left-wing politics, and so perhaps the findings of Cantoni et al do provide us with some corroborative evidence to confirm certain widely accepted notions of authoritarian (rightist) and anti-authoritarian (leftist) attitudes.  

Having presented these arguments, I feel it necessary to let the air out of the theoretical balloon I have just provided.  If we take the arguments I laid out in the preceding section as true (that the left-right divide is an inaccurate and misleading political construct), then perhaps the authoritarian-antiauthoritarian divide, too, is fallacious and harmful to our understanding of contemporary politics.  For example: Under Obama, the American Right decried him as an authoritarian fascist (among other things, e.g., crypto-Islamist, Communist, et cetera).  As we have seen throughout the Trump administration, the American Left has levied similar condemnations.  What does this tell us?  Are Americans hopelessly confused?  Is every political actor a fascist or a fascist-in-democratic clothing?  I believe that we can confidently say ‘Yes’ to the former, but ‘no’ to the latter.

What we have is the reality of democracy in action – one side of the political machine running roughshod over the other, at least until the temporarily dispossessed one gets their turn to abuse the governed.  More significantly, the democratic process obscures the true nature of authority, facilitating the interminable confusion in the minds of Americans as to what constitutes authority, and when precisely (if ever) it becomes ‘fascistic’.  Auctoriphobia, or the fear of authority, clearly emerges out of this confusion.  Not only does it emerge out of this confusion, but it also emerges as a result of the tragic and violent history of the preceding century; wars that claimed the lives of tens of millions, technological developments that stoked fears of ecological collapse, and the erosion of national infrastructure, to offer a view examples, have provided sufficient justification for anti-authoritarian sentiment.  We are now confronted with two important questions as relates to authoritarian and anti-authoritarian positions: What constitutes legitimate authority? (a question of perception), and how ought one conduct themselves in relation to authority? (a question of agency and ethics).  To orient ourselves in a healthful and psychologically adaptive way – that is to say, with clear-headedness and a maximum of free will – we must be able to understand this problem in a new way.

As I stated at the outset, the fundamental tension in the American political mind is of that between the authoritarian impulse and the anti-authoritarian impulse.  So should it be, as the question of authority is the most important question in virtually any human endeavor.  Authority, which for all intent and purpose might as well be another way of saying agency, is a matter of ‘right’ thought and ‘right’ action implemented in the ‘right’ circumstance.  It stands to reason, then, that authority is often about having the ‘right’ person in charge.  Without oversimplifying this problem inappropriately, we might say that he who possesses the will to act makes himself the authority.  Of course, authority can be secured through other means; hereditarily, meritocratically, anti-socially, to name a few.  Already, we begin to see the perceptual problem of authority, as not all people view each method as a legitimate path to the throne.  And even when a political actor rises to a position of authority through a conventional and generally accepted means, subjective perception may still deign to invalidate him.

In the home, in the classroom, at the market, and at the ballot box, Americans have proven to struggle mightily with the question of authority.  Parents fail to exercise their rightful authority over their children; teachers do not discipline their students; hedge fund managers, investment firms, and executive boards routinely engage in unethical and illegal conduct but frequently go unpunished (often, in fact, they are rewarded); and to the degree that Americans engage in the political process (which is far less than they ‘ought’ to), we find that they support the same policies and the same actors time and time again.  This is not to put the blame squarely on individual shoulders, as in each instance we find top-down initiatives which undermine the responsible demonstration of power.  Nonetheless, the point remains.  We can therefore say, and with a great deal of recent historical proof attesting to this fact, that Americans are deep in the throes of a crisis of legitimacy.  With neither the information necessary to make a proper evaluation of authority, nor even the capacity to adjudicate existent (or potential) information, we have been cast adrift in a sea of hopelessness and despair.  What we do have, however, is fear, anxiety, and resentment – and lots of it.  Supposedly unified by our shared American values, our freedoms, and our love of democracy (though not in actuality), the line between friend and enemy grows murkier with each passing year.  Though it should be said, there are things which unite us, just not in any productive or eusocial way.  We are united by the increased feeling of unease and uncertainty we experience; not just toward our present sociopolitical circumstance, but toward our very lives.  Here we see the problem of relation to authority, as our seemingly foundational antagonism toward the will to act renders us impotent in virtually every arena of American society.  Everywhere Americans look, they see failures of authority (often enabled by the very same authorities), thus producing a conceptual collapse whereby failures of authority anywhere become failures of authority everywhere. 

It has been said of scientific experimentation, though I know not by who, that “Everyone is a conservative in the area they are most knowledgeable.”  This was meant to express the deep hesitation specialists in a given field of study have toward making grand extrapolations.  Their expansive knowledge affords that rare gift of foresight; one can only stretch a set of data so far before it reaches its natural limit.  Co-opting this statement and applying it to the realm of the political, I would add the following “…and an authoritarian in the area they are the least knowledgeable and most fearful.”  Take the issue of gun control, for example.  Well-practiced and disciplined acolytes of the pistol or the rifle generally seek to retain control of their ability to act on this privilege and to preserve the culture of liberty around firearms, while those with less experience often seek swift and decisive action to limit it.  It follows that ambiguity and uncertainty may be the centrally driving forces behind the desire for authoritarianism.  But authoritarianism is not simply an expression of powerlessness or fearfulness; it is a recognition of the need for a central force which can act judiciously, particularly (though not exclusively) in those circumstances where there is insufficient information, and thus requires cool and measured action.  Perhaps we could say that the ambiguities (which inevitably crop up around important social issues like barnacles on the side of an ocean tanker) demand a capable authority, one who will not engage in endless and doubt-filled discussion, thus problematizing necessary action and prolonging suffering.  The correct attitude towards authority is one that recognizes it as both an inevitable and necessary feature of social organization.  Authority and authoritarianism are too often used as synonyms for oppression and violence, and are therefore used to indicate the badness of a person, party, or ideology.  Rarely do we think of it as the solution to our problems.  Once more, we suffer a problem of perception.  

Let us think a little bit more about this dichotomy between conservatism and authoritarianism.  Conservatism to a great degree is an instinct toward retention, often an impotent and stationary impulse, and as Freud noted in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, possibly even an instinct toward self-annihilation, or a reaching back to a state of non-existence.  Certainly its inability to confront the problems of change and expansion indicate a death of one kind or another (something that modern conservatives are increasingly aware of).  Authoritarianism thus is progressive; it is a willful and vital stance which seeks assertion, dominance, security – yes – but more importantly a securing of desire, of some thing, be it an object or a goal.  It is not merely a means for securing one’s own welfare or the welfare of the group, rather authority is the psychosocial means by which we may express our will.  The juxtaposition of these two instincts (1) the instinct to conserve, or preserve in stasis and (2) the instinct to progress and secure desire remain a psychological and political problem that has not yet found resolution within the American mind.  Necessarily this tension produces cognitive dissonance whereby the pursuit of something as novel as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is met with an equal force of “No, not too much of any of these, please.”  A society such as ours, built on ideas like breaking from tradition, limitless expansion, and geographic conquest is itself an expression of the paradox of authority and non-authority.  Even a cursory reading of the disagreements between America’s neophyte aristocratic order reveals this fact.  A commonly understood insight of psychology is that the stand-off between two opposing impulses creates a mental fissure by which action is rendered impossible and will is denied.  Such is the circumstance with which we are presently confronted.


For now, let’s turn away from the abstract and look at the problem of anti-authoritarianism and how it is expressed differently by our two subjects, the conservative and the progressive.  A fundamental and mutual misunderstanding made by conservative and republican types as well as progressive and democrat type (who both draw their historical and philosophical worldviews from the same liberal foundation) is that – from both perspectives – the other appears as a totalitarian despot, who, being unreasonable, dishonest, and stupid, seeks the domination and eradication of the other.  Both fail to recognize, particularly as their anxieties are intensified by interested parties in the politico-media complex, that they are both the sons of the same father.  Both see undue privileges bestowed upon the other, and each seeing themselves as solely and uniquely suffering the oppressive tyranny of their oedipal persecution.  It is a sibling rivalry par excellence. 

The conservative liberal is the yin to the progressive liberal yang, not being fundamentally distinct from one another in any meaningful sense, merely separated at birth.  For the progressive, the exercise of authority (for example, in the classroom or in the bedroom), stifles and necessarily suspends the realization of identity and the pursuit of happiness.  And for the conservative, an interventionist authority (perhaps at the gun show or in the marketplace), suspends autonomy, and self-reliance, themselves necessary for the pursuit of happiness.  Both seek permissiveness in those areas where their identities find realization and their values find expression.  Government, or the father, is never seen as a wise king, instead, he is always and forever the mad tyrant.  Where the conservative and the progressive lock hands, however, is in the righteous use of authority against external opponents – the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians.  Authority expressed within the domestic boundaries is an insufferable oppression, but when directed outwardly, it is felt as a gleeful nigh-orgasmic expression of a will to life.  “Yes he may be a tyrant, but he’s our tyrant.”

Building on the ideas set forth earlier in this chapter with regard to the mythic formation of the mind, the conservative has a peculiar antagonism toward authoritarianism predicated on his own mythologized self-concept.  The conservative, ever the rugged individualist, is therefore fiercely opposed to collectivism.  Being that the conservative is fundamentally liberal in his self-concept and his relation to the world, authoritarianism represents the final result of collectivism, to which he as a liberal is fundamentally opposed.  His opposition is rooted in the fear of self-destruction, of becoming absorbed into the horde, the mass, if collectivist authoritarianism were to emerge.  The right-liberal (or conservative), who most clearly has inherited the frontier myth of the American man, is unwilling to sublimate his internal drives to an order which would threaten his petty frontier psychology.  ‘Petty frontier psychology’ in this case would be understood as having the meaning of a smaller, more individualist and self-serving ambition.  Originally, the frontier was a place of limitless expansion – a physical terrain fraught with uncertainty and great danger.  It was a real place where the true test of man’s conquering spirit could be found.  But that place no longer exists.  Still, the myth lives on.  The ideology of the conservative frontiersman, not cleanly extinguished, has been abstracted from the physical terrain and transposed into the space of concepts and intangibilities (the free market, the stock trade, et cetera).  The market is the new conservative frontier where much can be gained and much can be lost, but at a comparatively less costly expense.  No longer will the conservative lose his wife, his children, or even his own life, but rather he may lose his accumulated wealth and – should the danger prove sufficiently great – other material (his home, private property) and social (status, respectability, prestige) goods.  Though the right-liberal may tell us that collectivism and authoritarianism are morally wrong not because of an a priori philosophical justification, if we scratch the surface we find that the true cause may be found in the threat posed to his tenuous self-concept and his grandiose social ambition.  And, of course, because we cannot truly assume that the American Girondin is in fact a monolith who may be reduced to a singular motivation, we may assume other factors exist which could explain his anti-authoritarianism.  Perhaps, he shares the historical anxieties associated with authoritarianism which are more clearly typified by his Jacobin brother (as we shall see in the following paragraph).  

The progressive on the other hand – sensitive primarily to concerns regarding social welfare and guided by his self-imposed moral responsibility to those with fewer protections – regards authoritarianism as a danger for its supposed historical implications (persecution and genocide).  Authoritarianism being something that only an evil person participates in, the progressive looks to history and sees those great villains, Italy and Germany specifically, as proof of this belief.  For the progressive, authoritarianism is not a true ideology or political system, but rather a collective hysteria predicated on the irrational scapegoating of a benevolent minority.  His moral axiom (protect the little guy) thus indicates to him that authoritarianism is wrong because it is rooted in the unjust persecution of endangered minorities.  In the case of Germany, those minorities were homosexuals, gypsies, Jews, the mentally and physically infirm, while in modern America, what constitutes an endangered minority is far more expansive (women, Muslims, immigrants, Blacks, Hispanics,  et cetera).  The historical factors at play (and the veracity of said historical claims) are of little consequence, what matters, is that someone is being persecuted.  By the progressives own logic, for centralization to occur and a politic of authoritarianism to settle in, there must be a scapegoated minority, and they must be extinguished for the good of the collective.  Authoritarianism is the means by which the mad tyrant, empowered by his brainwashed thralls, exercises his deranged will.  

So while the conservative fears erasure of the self, the progressive fears erasure of the other, who owing to his otherness is ontologically ‘first’ or ‘higher’. We might observe this in a Christian way, that because the last shall be first, the authoritarian must always be denied.  The relation to the other is interesting as it clearly differs in conception between the conservative and the progressive.  A number of studies conducted in the last twenty years attests to this difference.  In 2008, Oxley et al observed differences in threat sensitivity, noting that,

In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War.”

It should be noted that the researchers did not label the collected policy positions as Conservative or Liberal due to their relatively limited testing of political ideology (for example, they did not assess for positions on economic issues).  Sinn and Hayes (2016) compared Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory against the Evolutionary-Coalitional Theory and found that the “individualizing” (harm and fairness) moral foundation of liberals was better understood as a “universalizing motive” that consisted of a “broader set of moral commitments” and a “broader sociality than ethnocentrism”, while the “binding” (authority, respect, purity) moral foundation of conservatives was better characterized as an “authoritarian motive” typified by threat-sensitivity and outgroup antagonism.  Inbar et al (2011) found a positive relationship between disgust sensitivity and political conservatism, which held when controlling for demographic variables as well as the “Big Five” personality traits.  And finally, in 2017, Mendez reviewed personality, evolutionary and genetic, cognitive, neuroimaging, and neurological studies, arriving at the conclusion that

“Evidence [exists] for a normal right-sided “conservative-complex” involving structures sensitive to negativity bias, threat, disgust, and avoidance.”

To the best of my understanding (and there exists a not-so-inconsequential amount of literature to the contrary), the conservative has a stronger sense of self-preservation, aversion to contamination by pathogen, and is therefore more troubled by issues potentially caused by the ‘other’ (such as immigration, diversity and inclusivity mandates, marriage equality, et cetera).  Therefore, ontologically speaking, the ‘other’ is second because the conservative must be first.  With full view of both conservative and progressive lines of reasoning, we arrive at a differing-yet-convergent psychological justification for anti-authoritarian sentiment.  

But is it true that Americans are genuine anti-authoritarians?  We must understand that the most important aspect of this entire phenomenon is how a liberal worldview requires compartmentalization and rationalization among its adherents; full-blown, decadent and permissive 21st century liberalism doesn’t ask the individual to sublimate himself, much less repress any aspect of himself.  All ideas are given equal weight, all values are sanctioned, all actions are laudable, all pursuits are capable of commoditization, and all modes of being are good.  Of course these cannot all be true simultaneously, nor can such a worldview be sustained indefinitely.  And thus, compartmentalization and rationalization become necessary as the limits of the natural world collide with liberal ideology.  The sociopolitical realities of war, sex, race, religion, family, history, morality, class, and their intermediated negotiations increasingly puncture the thin veil of liberal thought, especially as America – for all its technological and material splendor – diminishes in global significance.  Without the prestige and comfortable living standard afforded as a result of being the uncontested leader of the free world, the house of cards noticeably begins to lose its stability.  As these tensions emerge, neurotic and obviously contradictory justifications fill the gaps like cheap glue.  

In truth, the ‘authoritarian’ is the shadow in the soul of the American liberal (conservative and progressive, alike).  And while it may be the force that performs acts of evil, this does not preclude either type from identifying with or enacting residual or latent authoritarianism when a situation of sufficient self-servingness emerges.  As has been pointed out earlier, there are times when life demands acts of authoritative will from us.  It is an unavoidable result of living as material beings that must suffer, and toil, and strive in this world.  The solution to this severing of the conscious from the unconscious finds itself in the execution of some ego defense which resolves the dilemma.  Whether it be through denial, compartmentalization, rationalization – some technique will be applied which will soothe the pain of self-betrayal.  

There is also, of course, the fact that political and philosophical identities are no different from the mask worn by attendees of a masquerade; they are a form of role play which facilitates the navigation of social realities.  So in those circumstances where we are not talking about the true believers who have a deep psychological need to explain their inconsistencies to themselves, we see that in both the conservative and progressive type a kind of childishness – the childishness of one who has been caught in a lie or some other impropriety who, upon being discovered, merely declares “You got me!” and laughs at the silliness of having been taken seriously in the first place.  Not everyone treats the idea as an object of the real, far from it, they are regarded by many (if not, most) as a fanciful and irreverent device which is more a problem of life than a means through which will and action can find their realization.  This psychological fact complicates the ideals of democracy and egalitarianism, and in fact, fatally undermines the liberal worldview.  Taking this into account we can characterize psychological and political liberalism itself as a Kleinian phantasy, a device of the mind through which the individual can interact with the world, but always at a distance, and always with the aid of a litany of ego defenses.  

And so, once more I ask, is the average American anti-authoritarian?  The answer is that every man serves a master, even if that master resides within his own mind.  It is on irrational grounds that we choose our authorities, no matter how coherent or logical the contrivances we make may be.  America’s ongoing crisis of legitimacy has perhaps created a fair-weather anti-authoritarian sentiment, but it is with the wind to be certain.  Different American institutions have burned all their credibility in the minds of different sects of America; those institutions that manage to retain their credibility only do so, again, in compartmentalized ways.  Left-liberals revere the institution of science, but not in its entirety.  Particularly for more extreme liberals and progressives, whole disciplines (e.g., behavioral genetics) are written off entirely.  Right-liberals revere the institution of the church, but not in its entirety.  The Christ that exists in the minds of many Christians today could not be any farther from the man found in the New Testament.  There is nothing Christian about the prosperity doctrine, and yet, many right-liberals conveniently reject the anti-materialism of Christianity in favor of the abundance afforded by capitalism.  When Obama was in office, many right-liberals suddenly became cynical, data-crunching statisticians who took the government’s reports on unemployment and job growth with the tiniest grains of salt.  This was not so when Trump took office.  Many left-liberals were riotous zealots in their opposition to George W. Bush’s warmongering.  Not so, when Obama took office.  Even NPR in 2011 and The Washington Post in 2013 took notice of this fact, asking “Where did the anti-war Left go?”  Americans are not anti-authoritarian, they merely want their authorities.  Only now the country is too big, too bloated, and too divided to provide a universally legitimate authority figure.  As we have seen with the recent coronavirus pandemic, Americans may not be as comfortable with authoritarianism as say, China is, but it would be a far cry to argue that a true anti-authoritarian sentiment rests deep inside the American soul.