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Why do conservatives like to be told what to do?

Excuse the snarkyness of this post. I’m really curious if this is my crazy observation or if I’m just a jerk.

Have you ever noticed that conservative folks (politically and religiously) like to be told what to do? I don’t mean they will say “just tell me what to say, do, or think” but I mean that the people they flock to admire tend to be people who will tell them what to do and not challenge them very much to come to their own conclusions. (Or to examine how they came to the conclusions they evangelize.)

Example #1: Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. These guys are certifiably nuts. (But entertaining) They spew all sorts of nonsense and political conservatives love them. People even call and email them to proclaim them as right in every situation. 90% of Stephen Colberts schtick is mocking them and still some peopel think they are brilliant.

Example #2: Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Don’t get me wrong, people should be conservative with their money. But if you have to call in to their show to hear this… “pay cash, pay off your credit cards” than I suspect you won’t notice that their making millions by humiliating you on TV, radio, books, and curriculum. Again, their shows are fodder for comedians. I hope someone gets a show on Comedy Central to teach people how to manage their money soon.

Example #3: Alpha male pastors. Look, I’m too close to evangelicalism to start naming names. I don’t care to get myself in that kind of trouble. But over and over I see these guys become succesful. They aren’t saying or doing anything special… just alpha dudes who get their jollies telling their congregations what to do. (Politics, money, and sex tend to be their top topics.) And yet, conservative people flock to them. This isn’t just senior pastors either! I see worship dudes and youth ministry dudes taking the same stance. It’s a powerful addiction as the more authoritative and the more they manipulate an audience, the more fervor people follow them. (The flip side is that the most successful ministry leaders are extremely humble, it’s only on their rise that they seem to be like this.)

Why do these conservative voices go unchecked? This is the beauty of the conservative system. If you dare to mention someone’s name or second guess some of their proclamations… just watch what the fan boys do! It’s as hilariously and predictable as the Cubs failing to mkae the World Series.

See, once these fans admire/idolize someone, once they learn to love being told what to do by them, these fans become vipers. The scour the earth looking for people who dare to question their dude’s authority and then they lash out. “How dare you question Dave? He helped me get out of debt.” (As if Dave Ramsey actually paid your bills… no, you were the one who got yourself out of debt!) “How dare you question my pastor? Because of him I am a new man!” (No, you are a new man because of grace and your pastor doesn’t impart grace.”) “How dare you question Rush? He was right about Bill Clinton!” (OK, I’ll give you that. But it was a decade ago.)

What’s the other side of this coin? Ah, there is a deadly side to this game as well. Being loved by conservatives is a double-edged sword. The moment that someone slays these dragons… or more often… their own actions disqualify them from holding their authoritative voice over conservatives, they are stricken down.

The sick thing about being a conservative voice for politics, money, or religion is that you are only the voice-du-jour. One day these people will turn on you. Not only will conservative people turn on their leader-du-jour, they will austrecize them. Then they will pretend like they never really listened to you, cared about you, or bought your book.

It’s a sick system. And I’m part of it.

So, I wonder… what’s with the psychosis of wanting to be told what to do?

Is it that we don’t want to think for ourselves?

Is it that we long for the simple life?

Or is it something else?

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

4 replies on “Why do conservatives like to be told what to do?”

Obviously, my first question would be “is this an accurate observation?” Obviously, one can cite plenty of examples of conservatives who like to tell others what to do. (And I don’t know that Suze Orman counts as a conservative.)

However, there are plenty of political and fiscal liberals who are more than happy to tell you what to do. (Not so many religious liberals though, and I’ll get to why I think that might be in a moment.) In fact, one could argue that the definition of a political liberal entails telling others what to do. (Or taking it one step forward, seizing our money through taxation and doing it for us.)

So maybe it’s not just that conservatives like to be told what to do – it’s endemic to our culture.

The second question, then, would have to be “are there conservatives who are more interested in giving people information and teaching them to think?” Or to take it from the other angle, “are there as many conservatives who prefer to be given information and then to think for themselves?” I suspect so – though it’s just a hunch which probably stems from assuming that most people are something like me, a conservative that finds Limbaugh and O’Reilly annoying (and not truly conservative in many of the issues that matter most) and who finds Ramsey boring and predictable.

Finally, there may be another factor at work here. From a theological perspective, conservatism typically assumes that actions matter. Theological liberalism tends to downplay moral imperatives. Maybe theological conservatives like being told what to do (or at least hearing what others think they ought to do) because of the importance they place on doing the right thing, whereas theological liberals need no such advice because each person is a law unto themselves.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Either way, thanks for giving me something to think about on a Sunday night.

-From someone who also is enjoying an evening without penguins after too many with them.

I think its human nature to want to tell other what to do. In the case of those in dire financial straits they want and perhaps need someone what to do with their money for they never had someone how to handle it.

Limbaugh and O’Reilly? I think those are easy targets. They are paid to be interesting. Even if you don not find them interesting, you found them interesting enough to mention them here.

There are plenty of conservatives and liberals who do not appreciate someone telling them what to do. Its just easier to pigeon hole those you are most familiar with.

Now if you excuse me, my wife it telling me I need to get off the computer.

Example #4: Barack Obama. It’s on both sides of the aisle. People are desperate to have someone tell them what to do. The vast majority of the human race does not want to expend the necessary energy to live. It’s much easier to copy someone else, or do what they say to do. Makes you feel good to know that someone you idolize likes what you do.

Holy crap! You A nailed it, and B basically predicted the rise of Donald Trump (The king of telling people what to do) and the comical downfall of mainstream Republicans (“One day these people will turn on you”).

Incredible. Glad I found this. 7 years later conservatives are even worse. They no longer just want to be told what to do, they straight up reject science and mathematics. It’s insane.

I feel like I opened a time capsule that predicted a now past future.

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