Authoritarian Nightmare

Trump and His Followers

One of American political history’s most famous figures, who knows what it’s like to stand up to an authoritarian White House, joins with an expert on authoritarianism to take a piercing look at how someone like Donald Trump and his followers achieved power—and what they might do to keep it …

John Dean, of Watergate fame, knows what it’s like to work for a strong-willed, vindictive president. But even Richard Nixon, says Dean, didn’t have the raw lust for power that Donald Trump has. Nor the lack of skill. Nor the deep, willful ignorance of our democracy. So how did such a person achieve power?

Suspecting the answer lay in understanding Trump’s base constituency, Dean has partnered with Bob Altemeyer, a professor of psychology whose expertise is the study of authoritarianism, to see why Trump’s base is so faithful to him, no matter what he does. Why do evangelical Christians support him, for example, despite his well-documented sexual predations? Why do so many working class Americans support him, despite the way he works against their interests? Why do facts and logic not change their minds?

By drawing on some psychological diagnostic tools (such as the “Power Mad Scale” and the “Con Man Scale”) and looking at other historic authoritarians and their movements, Dean and Altemeyer offer not only an eye-opening revelation of how Trump and his followers have gotten where they have . . . but a road map to where they may go next.


View the Authoritarian Nightmare Index and Appendices to learn more.

John W. Dean served as White House counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973. During the Watergate scandal, his Senate testimony helped lead to Nixon’s resignation. Dean has written about Watergate in his New York Times bestsellers Blind Ambition and The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Among his other books are the national bestsellers Worse Than Watergate and Conservatives Without Conscience. A retired investment banker, Dean is now a columnist, commentator, and teacher in a continuing legal education program for attorneys, the Watergate CLE. He is a regular political and legal commentator on CNN News.

Bob Altemeyer‘s research on the psychological makeup of authoritarian leaders and followers has established him as the recognized expert in the field. He is the author of The Authoritarians and many other titles. Altemeyer taught psychology at the University of Manitoba and was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for Behavioral Science Research in 1986.

“Those who want to try to understand Trump’s followers and what motivates them will find it important and alarming.” Linda Killian, The Washington Post

Praise for John W. Dean’s previous title, Blind Ambition …

“Before you know it, you are turning the pages of Mr. Dean’s book as if you are reading about Watergate for the first time. And by the time you have finished, you are convinced that no previous book about the scandal—not even those by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—has begun to tell the inside story as this one does.” —The New York Times

“A lively chronicle of megalomania and deception . . . Eminently readable . . . Dean is particularly good at reading the intricate network of White House power relationships, which he once climbed so surely.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The best and most enduring book written from inside the Nixon White House . . . A classic of lost illusions.” —Sidney Blumenthal, New York Times–bestselling author of The Clinton Wars

“Rare indeed is a memoir so utterly lacking in self-righteousness, false piety, and special pleading. It is a sobering reminder of the perils of ambition.” —Stanley Kutler, author of The Wars of Watergate