My wager is that were Ayn Rand alive today, she would condemn the whole Trump phenomenon. Far from seeing him or his administration’s actions as even partially influenced by her ideas, she would see Donald Trump as the kind of political figure whose rise she had foreseen and warned us against.And despite admitting that she surprised her followers (as geniuses tend to do continually, although that irony seems lost on him) by not endorsing Reagan shortly before her death, as an "expert on Ayn Rand’s philosophy," he feels qualified to speak for her. Regarding Trump, he claims:
Trump’s salient characteristic as a political figure is anti-intellectuality. Because Rand saw this mentality as on the rise (she called it the anti-conceptual mentality), she had a lot to say about it, and it’s illuminating how much of it fits Trump."To be an intellectual," he writes, "is a demanding responsibility. To be intellectual requires real independence of judgment and enduring honesty and integrity." And in case any of us were considering likening Trump to the Founding Fathers, he notes, "It’s not just that Trump lacks these virtues; in comparison to, say, Jefferson, Washington or Madison, most of today’s politicians do. It’s that Trump projects disdain for these virtues."
In fact, we're told, Trump really didn't care about "draining the swamp." This was merely a last-minute phrase, a "tool of manipulation" that he opportunistically tried and when he observed it to work, kept it in his diabolical act. Imagine, a politician testing a talking point on his base! (The implication is that deep down, he really loves all the dirty politicos in DC.)
So, what's the upshot of all of this? Ghate tells us that when the anti-intellectual mind replaces fidelity to truth with "loyalty to the group," it leads to "a profound tribalism" which, in turn, leads towards "authoritarianism and dictatorship."
So, I think I get it. Trump is an amoral pragmatist with a penchant for lying. His anti-conceptual mind demands loyalty to "Him" and this represents an ominous trend towards "authoritarianism and dictatorship." Evidently, Ghate tells us, we are nearing the stage where "pseudo-intellectuals will eventually be replaced by their progeny: people who more openly dispense with the intellect and who are more explicitly boorish, brutish and tribal, i.e., by anti-intellectual mentalities." In this regard, Trump is a Cuffy Meigs type character, but instead of a "gun in one pocket and a rabbit's foot in the other," Trump "carries the nuclear codes in one pocket and Infowars in the other."
There are several ways in which Ghate, and by extension, ARI, is losing the plot. I will put aside whether Ghate, or anyone, is qualified to speak for Ayn Rand (which, with respect to the concrete complexities of politics, I hold is preposterous on its face), and focus on the particular issues.
First, note that virtually any politician today could be subjected to an isolated dissection of their philosophic and moral pathology. Imagine such an analysis of Hillary Clinton (which might require volumes), Bush, Bernie Sanders, or Joseph Biden? They are all the progeny of a collapsing culture and a bankrupt post-modern intellectual climate. However, focusing on Trump's particular philosophical pathology outside of the larger political and cultural context is pure rationalism. Yes, maybe he is anti-intellectual (although, I think he is more unintellectual), but that might be ok, for example, if his opponent is a cunning philosophical evil genius bent on overthrowing America.
Second, what is the largest threat facing defenders of individualism today? The biggest threat is post-modern philosophic trends that are threatening free speech, violently stifling dissent, whitewashing the threat of Islamism, purging western culture from the university curriculum, causing the balkanization of Americans into racial and victim groups, justifying wanton violence towards law enforcement, and breaking down the rule of law - not to mention the left's various political programs of environmentalism, socialized medicine, and confiscatory taxation.
The popularity of Trump is in large part an American backlash to this threat. Would it be nice to have an articulate, reasoned, opponent of these trends? Maybe or maybe not. Trump's crudeness and unwillingness to apologize to the PC police is exactly what resonated with ordinary Americans fed up with, not just the PC left, but milquetoast Republicans who kowtow to these trends at every available opportunity. Trump's macho demeanor is anathema to many, but it is a projection of a certain American sensibility - a sense of confidence and moral certainty. A cowboy wouldn't win the Yale debate club, but he would project confidence, swagger, and ability - important qualities in an executive that most Americans admire.
As Americans watched Dallas cops get gunned down in the street, watched Antifa thugs beat up conservatives on college campuses, and witnessed more and more victims of yet more Muslim terror attacks, all we heard from the leftist shills in the mainstream media was PC propaganda that "Islamophobia" or "white privilege" is really what we must fear! In an age of "Blame America First," Trump's unabashed "America First" mantra is the first time in a generation or more that a politician has expressed this sentiment. And, even if this is the product of an "anti-intellectual boor," he means it - and most Americans love it.
In stark contrast to Trump, who were the other choices? Were the candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and John Galt? Did I miss something?
Hillary Clinton is a corrupt megalomaniac who has spent her life crushing her opposition in a ruthless quest for political power. As we have now found out, she spent her years under Obama as Secretary of State selling out American foreign policy for cash. As we have found out since, her tentacles stretched not only into the DNC (which threw the primary for her), the media (which openly campaigned for her), but to the former Attorney General, the FBI Director, and elements of our intelligence agencies who now regularly leak damaging items about Trump.
She was not pursued for brazen obstruction of justice when she and her cronies deleted tens of thousands of emails, while others rot in prison for 1/100 of an offense. FBI Director Comey went on national television to cite a litany of obstruction violations under federal law, only to tell us that he would not seek prosecution. Of course, that is not his call, it is the call of the justice department and attorney general, but, oh wait, AG Lynch had already recused herself due to a mysterious meeting with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac. This is the stuff of Banana Republics! If she had won, perhaps Clinton would have worn epaulettes, ceremonial medals, and smoked a pipe at her inauguration.
Where was Ghate's philosophical analysis of this creature?
I would have voted for virtually any of her opponents, simply to rid the federal government, as much as possible, of the Clinton machine's cronies and allies, her cabinet heads, her justice department, her FBI, her intelligence agencies and state department, to say nothing of her economic and tax advisors. In the same way, I'd like to see Chicago shorn of the Democratic machine regardless of what replaces it for a few years.
Meanwhile, under Trump, we have gotten a conservative Supreme Court justice, which is to say we avoided a liberal justice, we have some cabinet agency heads that are dismantling their agencies, notably the EPA and the Department of Education and we are getting non-Hillary types at all levels of his administration. Due to Trump's and the Republican's inability to think or act in principle, we have not had a repeal of Obamacare, but we don't have full socialized medicine yet. Also, they are not even discussing cutting back government spending, which is horrible, but no worse than what would have happened under Clinton. I expect the political achievements of Trump to be minimal, but not devastating.
More important than policy matters right now, Trump's election has brought to the surface clear fronts in a broader cultural war between PC left progressives and Americans - something that would never have happened as starkly under a Clinton presidency.
The left and the media have been totally exposed. Liberal democrats and the left are at war. The left, on full tilt over Trump's election, have exposed themselves as fully anti-American fascists, willing even to shout down speeches given by the ACLU! If it's not clear that the mainstream media is openly biased, then it never will be. The main news networks and large metro newspapers openly campaign against Trump and the Republicans on a daily basis in the most brazen way. The major social media companies openly worked with the Hillary campaign, and now are openly trying to stifle right wing social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others.
The PC left is an authoritarian movement that seeks to purge Western civilization in favor of Marxism and identity politics. This is the biggest danger advocates of free markets and civil liberties face right now. America does need clear, articulate defenders of Western civilization and western values of reason, individual rights, and capitalism. Some of those people have been emboldened by the left's hostile antics, and are now winning in the marketplace of ideas. People like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Gad Saad (none huge fans of Trump), and many others have emerged as articulate defenders of free speech and western civilization on campus.
Objectivist intellectuals need to stop rationalistically attacking Trump for not being the Thomas Jefferson of politics. No one is. He is flawed. He is many of things Ghate accuses him of being. We know! Call him out for bad policies or bad ideas, but, also, place his presidency in the broader context of the intellectual battle we are waging and the alternatives we actually face in the here and now. More importantly, they should focus their attacks on the real enemies of civilization.