The Conservative Worldview: Herrenvolk and Untermenschen, Revisited

The following essay is one that I published during the Presidential election year of 2012, except for the photo and Postscript. It was more of a conjecture at the time, and it ruffled a few feathers, but I think the passage of time has provided even more confirmation of the underlying hypothesis.

[Photo by Pargon, only changed to "grayscale". link]

Romney and Conservative propagandists are crying that President Obama is “divisive.” That is sick, hypocritical and pathetic. The conservative worldview itself is based upon the division of people into two groups, the “Herrenvolk” and the “Untermenschen.”

“Herrenvolk” is German for a race, people, or nation considered superior to all others and therefore qualified to rule over them. American Conservatives see themselves as the Herrenvolk, the “real Americans,” the job creators, the “haves,” the true (fundamentalist) Christians, native-born, native-English-speaking, heterosexual fetus-protectors who believe America is superior to all other countries, literally and morally. With blind self-glorification, they assert that no one helped them achieve what they have, they did it all themselves. This makes them superior. A subset still maintains that being White also makes them superior. And being male. When the notion of a “Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck” ticket was proposed to Glenn Beck his response was, “I’m gonna take back seat to a chick? I mean, ‘Go shoot a bear, make some stew, I’m hungry in here!’” For Conservatives like Beck, Limbaugh and Allen West, women should be subservient to men.

The enemies of the Herrenvolk are the “Untermenschen,” “inferior people.” Romney suggests that they are 47% of the U.S. population. They are the “have nots,” freeloaders, moochers, scavengers, parasites, leeches, losers, hippies, foreigners, gays, atheists, Muslims, liberals, socialists, collectivists, communists, and anyone who lives off of taxes, which (as American Conservatives see it) is money robbed from Herrenvolk.

The moral disgust that Conservatives feel toward Untermenschen is compounded by the belief that, aside from race and sex, Untermenchen choose to be Untermenschen. Untermenschen could be fundamentalist Christians, but they choose not to be. Homosexuals could choose to be heterosexual, but they refuse. Liberals could choose to be Conservatives, but they insist on siding with Untermenschen. Poverty is also a matter of choice. In ConservaWorld, everyone can find or create jobs that pay well enough to provide for all of their needs, so, if they can’t provide for all of their needs, that was their choice. If someone has a disabling medical condition which inhibits them from finding gainful employment, well, maybe their medical condition resulted from their lifestyle choices, and they don’t deserve support regardless of their need.

In the Conservative worldview, only the Herrenvolk deserve to vote, prosper and rule.

Thus their complaints about President Obama. He is the son of an African and he once went to a Muslim school. Africans and Muslims are Untermenschen to American Conservatives. President Obama may call himself a Christian now, but a prominent preacher in his church said bad things about America. Anyone who denies the sanctity and supremacy of the United States of America is an Untermensch. So is anyone who belongs to that preacher’s church. Furthermore, President Obama openly advocates support for Untermenschen, and he takes money from Herrenvolk to do that.

Thus Conservative complaints about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, food stamps, and welfare. Herrenvolk wouldn’t need this support. Anyone who does need such support is an Untermensch, and Untermenschen do not deserve such support. So the Herrenvolk owe nothing to the Untermenschen. But the Untermenschen owe everything to the Herrenvolk.

Thus the voter identification laws, and questions as to whether Untermensch Americans should have the right to vote. Only Herrenvolk are worthy, but Untermenschen are so numerous that allowing them to vote is a threat to Herrenvolk. The lazy, dependent Untermenschen will always vote to tax the Herrenvolk more and to increase their own entitlements. So every means must be used to restrict the number of Untermenschen who are able to vote.

Thus the Conservative push for fundamentalist Christian theocracy. American Conservatives see their religion, fundamentalist Christianity, as one factor giving them Herrenvolk superiority. From their perspective, there is only one true religion, the one which they believe in, and it is superior to all others. As General Boykin said, in reference to a Muslim warlord, "I knew my God was bigger than his; I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Anyone who rejects or impedes the authority and influence of fundamentalist Christianity is Untermensch.

Thus complaints about Obama “apologizing” to other countries and their people. To the Conservative mind, the USA is Herrenvolk among nations, the rest are Untermenschen.

Thus the Conservative “Project for a New American Century” and its corollary policies of global threat and domination by Herrenvolk America.

That’s my Herrenvolk Hypothesis of the Conservative worldview. Is there any scientific evidence for it? Well, Chris Mooney, having reviewed the scientific literature concerning the Conservative brain, concluded that Conservatives are “hierarchs” and highly sensitive to in-group/out-group distinctions. By "hierarchs" he says he means that they support various types of inequality. I think they simply view the world in terms of superiors and inferiors, i.e., hierarchy. When he talks about their “in-group/out-group distinctions,” he’s referring to their reflexive impulse to distinguish between Us and Them.

John Dean asserts that today’s Republican Party “is controlled by authoritarian conservatives,” and he notes that the social scientific literature has this to say about right-wing authoritarians:

They are very self-righteous. They are not self-critical. They have very little critical thinking about their own behavior. They are often nasty and mean-spirited. They are bullies. They are prejudiced. And the higher they test on these questionnaires and scales, the more conservative they are.

Remember this, the Ugly Republican, when they smile and ask you to vote them into power. When they say, “Believe in America,” they mean a Herrenvolk America.


Now it would be "Make America Herrenvolk Again."

I wrote this essay around the time that I began researching the political psychology of authoritarianism. Further research into authoritarian psychology gave me a better understanding of it. That led to one essay about the neuroscience behind it [republished here, on my personal website], and later essays about it here and here on caucus99percent. Now I believe that political orientation is a phenomenon which must be incorporated into theories of political science and sociology. Perhaps into theories of "political economy," as well.

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CB's picture

on the left.

The Neoconservative Movement is Trotskyism

“Most neoconservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history.” - Michael Lind

American exceptionalism Herrenvolk has been a factor in the American psyche since its founding.

“School Begins: U.S. - First Lessons in Self Government”

Description: Caricature showing Uncle Sam lecturing four children labelled Philippines (who appears similar to Philippine leader Emilio Aguinaldo), Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Cuba in front of children holding books labelled with various U.S. states. In the background are an American Indian holding a book upside down, a Chinese boy at the door, and a black boy cleaning a window. Cartoon was originally published on p. 8-9 of the January 25, 1899 issue of Puck magazine.


Uncle Sam (to his new class in Civilization).— Now, children, you've got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not!
But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!


The consent of the governed is a good thing
in theory, but very rare in fact.
England has governed her colonies
whether they consented or not.
by not waiting for their consent
she has greatly advanced the
world's civilization.
The U.S. must govern its new terri-
tories with or without their consent
until they can govern themselves.


The Confederated States refused
their consent to be governed;
But the Union was preserved
without their consent.

Book: (on table)

First Lessons
In Self

Note: (on table)

the new class
philippines cuba
hawaii porto rico

Date: 25 January 1899

The dark history of education as a tool of settler colonialism and cultural destruction

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arendt's picture


being accepted as anti-communist in the McCarthyite 1950s. Once they were "inside the tent" the natural "permanent revolution" attitude of Trotskyites led them, as you say, to create neoconservatism.

The right was stupid to let the Trotskyites in; but no one ever said the right was smart or that the Trotskyites were stupid. William Buckley, that uber-WASP, was busy smashing the Birchers; he seems to have missed the threat of the Trotskyites.

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Not Henry Kissinger's picture

The enemies of the Herrenvolk are the “Untermenschen,” “inferior people.” Romney suggests that they are 47% of the U.S. population. They are the “have nots,” freeloaders, moochers, scavengers, parasites, leeches, losers, hippies, foreigners, gays, atheists, Muslims, liberals, socialists, collectivists, communists, and anyone who lives off of taxes, which (as American Conservatives see it) is money robbed from Herrenvolk.

Conservatives aren't the only ones who subscribe to your 'Herrenvolk Hypothesis'.

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

Hillary Clinton's entire Presidential campaign was based on the smug delusion that she and her followers knew better than everyone else, and branded anyone who thought differently as 'A Basket of Deplorables' of lower social caste not worthy of governance.

Both Conservatives and Liberals use nasty tribal epithets to divide voters into hateful camps. Nether ideology has anything left to offer that's positive, so they resort to unbridled negativity to keep everyone in their respective pens.

Your claim to be defending Obama from charges of divisiveness is itself an over long diatribe of nothing but divisiveness.

Congratulations on your two minutes of hate for 'the other side'.

Feel better now?

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Peace Sells

thanatokephaloides's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger

Conservatives aren't the only ones who subscribe to your 'Herrenvolk Hypothesis'.

To a very great extent, the 'Herrenvolk Hypothesis' works its way into every species of human endeavor which is competitive in nature. One must view oneself as Herrenvolk, and all competitors as Untermenschen, in order to function competitively. (This is part of what I have against competitive sports in schools.)

The 'Herrenvolk Hypothesis' is everywhere. It's the ancient "Us vs. Them" thing. The problem is to get it recognized as the bad thing that it is, rather than the good thing that those who view themselves as Herrenvolk want us to see it as.

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"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

k9disc's picture


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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

CB's picture


for reminding me of my younger days when I was part of the Untermenschen fighting to bring an end to the Vietnam War.

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Alex Budarin's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger
In discussing "Conservative" perceptions, I was describing a phenomenon supported by neuroscientific and psychological research. The research generally has examined political differences in psychology in terms of "Conservatives" versus "Liberals." The distinction has been made, evaluated and reported by numerous university professors and peer-reviewed researchers.

The same evidence calls into question any suggestion that "Liberals" are the same as "Conservatives." Liberals tend to be more open-minded and open to change than Conservatives. Conservatives tend to want to maintain traditions and hierarchies; they are less open to change and more anxious about uncertainties. [My other essays referenced above present research on this.]

My essay was intended to point out the hypocrisy of Conservatives calling Obama "divisive," when they were consciously or unconsciously divisive themselves. I guess your objection is that my essay perpetuates division. Well, polling indicates that our country is increasingly divided, and it's not just a superficial division. For example, self-identified Conservatives fear that immigration is ending America as they know it, and they are doing all they can to stop it and roll it back. It's obviously based on their fear of immigrants who differ from them. It would be fine if the immigrants came from Norway, but the most recent immigrants include Mexicans, Africans, and Muslims. Egad, Whites are becoming a minority and Christianity is declining! It doesn't matter to me. I'm not threatened by these circumstances. But it matters to self-identified Conservatives. So they support draconian policies calculated to keep and remove such people from their midst.

And there's more to the Conservative agenda. There is clearly large support among self-identified Conservatives for laws and policies which impose their discriminatory religious beliefs and supremacist attitudes upon everyone else in the USA. I object to the imposition of traditional dogmas and the maintenance of social inequities. I object to the myriad ways in which fundamentalist Christian dogma threatens to be imposed upon all of us, such as with legalized discrimination and further restrictions on reproductive freedoms in the name of someone's God. Who is sanctioning this discrimination, this imposition of alleged divine law? People who self-identify as Conservatives. As a member of the 99%, I also object to the current political and economic hierarchy, and I would like to see greater political and economic equity. Who is most vigorously defending the political and economic status quo? People who self-identify as Conservatives. Yes, Establishment Democrats like Hillary also defend the economic status quo. That's why I don't support them, either.

I know that Conservatives say Liberals are hypocritical for not tolerating their racial/ethnic hate speech and discrimination based on religion. I think that's absurd. Why should I tolerate actions aimed at depriving some people of the same rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which others enjoy, based on religious, racial or ethnic discrimination? I would be complicit in that discrimination. Tolerance is a matter of degree, not an absolute. I can tolerate a lot of social novelty and difference, but I will not tolerate conduct which renders the rights of some people inferior to the rights of others on the basis of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, or some other attribute. In my view, the current Conservative agenda is intended to do that. If you're not resisting it, you're supporting it.

You suggested that neither Liberals nor Conservatives have anything left to offer that's positive. For whatever it's worth, I'd like to note that I have posted essays here and here which I believe include positive suggestions for the future.

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"All Life is Problem Solving" - Karl Popper

re-title your essay to: The Liberal World View of What Conservatives Think.

I simply cannot lump the working class conservatives with the upper class conservatives.

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Alex Budarin's picture

As John Dean noted, today's Republican Party "is controlled by authoritarian conservatives." Authoritarians strive to maintain social dominance [the "Social Dominance Orientation"] or traditions ["Right-Wing Authoritarians"]. There are upper-class authoritarian conservatives like Trump, and there are also a lot of working-class authoritarian conservatives, like those who show up at Trump rallies.

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"All Life is Problem Solving" - Karl Popper

lotlizard's picture

On a Trailways bus to Wisconsin, for one part of the trip a fifteen-year old boy sat next to me. We chatted and it turned out he was on his way home from a Jewish educational summer camp.

The time being the mid-Sixties and I being a “person of color” from Hawaii who had previously never been away from the Islands and was eager to overcome my ignorance of North American realities, I broached the subject of what today would be called diversity.

He looked sincerely pained at having to explain to me that in his community’s book, I was unalterably a “goy” — an outsider, the Other, a Gentile.

It was the first time I had ever heard that word.

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