Last week President Bush appeared before an audience in Kansas and boasted about violating the constitution by ordering the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. He received thunderous applause from the carefully vetted conservative audience. To be sure, some of enthusiam for presidential lawbreaking can be attributed to Kansan exceptionalism. But several polls are showing that a narrow majority of Americans support this violation of constitutional law in the "War on Terror".
There has always been a segment of the American population that longs for authoritarian rule and is uncomfortable with democratic institutions such as the free press or Congressional oversight of the Executive. To gain some insight into this I recently reread Escape from Freedom (1941)(German version: Die Furcht vor der Freiheit) by the German-American pyschoanalyst and thinker Erich Fromm. Fromm was forced to flee Germany in 1934 along with other members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. While the main purpose of Escape from Freedom was to analyze the origins of National Socialist totalitarianism in Germany, the book was written in the United States, and Fromm points out the dangers of authoritarian thinking even in his new homeland.