PCC students will explore election fears


Descriptors for this year’s election season include unbelievable, amusing, terrifying, entertaining, unreal, bizarre, insane and the ultimate whaaat?

It’s an in-your-face time that forces us to reflect on what is really happening as we pick the president of the United States of America.

Amanda Taub, an adjunct professor of International Law and Human Rights at Fordham University in New York City, offers one way to view the chaos of this election season.

In “The rise of American authoritarianism” on VOX.com, she says the ideology attracts many people during times of great change. People who are fearful flock to its sanctuary.

Authoritarianism offers a solution to the perceived chaos around them: gay marriage, transgender people, same-sex bathrooms, immigrants, ISIS, terrorism in general … the list is long and varied.

Their alarm is palpable and each conspiracy theory adds to the anger and fear.

To reorganize society back to the perceived nirvana of a former status quo, they seek a leader who is strong and determined and who promises that order will be restored by any means necessary, including force.

Force, whether it be verbally threatening or physically real, is a plausible solution that takes people back to the days when America was great and therefore can be again.

It seemed to me that exploring this ideology presented a worthy field of study.

I wondered what our first-year college students would think of the ideas Taub presents.

I wondered what they, as first time voters, might see that would help explain the endless discussions on all forms of social media.

I wondered if her ideas are credible, so I am asking my students.

All five of my WRT 101 classes are involved in this project. We are exploring three major sections of Taub’s article:

  • What is American authoritarianism?
  • Donald Trump, authoritarians and fear.
  • How authoritarians will change the Republican Party and American politics.

This is not in any way an attempt to suggest for whom students should vote. That choice is theirs alone.

However, the dynamics of this election provide fertile ground to explore American authoritarianism through the process of argumentation, which is the foundation of WRT 101.

Once the students’ ideas are in clear written form, I will compile their papers for a presentation on authoritarianism at the Ninth Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, to be held Nov. 14-16 in Seville, Spain.

We will also share the ideas with any of our PCC community; just ask.

And vote. Please.

Mic Denfeld happily teaches WRT 101 and honors WRT 101 at West Campus.

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