Why is Donald Trump so hugely appealing to Republicans right now, based on polls?
Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand wrote this a few decades ago: A dictatorship cannot take hold in America today. This country, as yet, cannot be ruled—but it can explode. It can blow up into the helpless rage and blind violence of a civil war. It cannot be cowed into submission, passivity, malevolence, resignation. It cannot be “pushed around.” Defiance, not obedience, is the American’s answer to overbearing authority. The nation that ran an underground railroad to help human beings escape from slavery, or began drinking on principle in the face of Prohibition, will not say “Yes, sir,” to the enforcers of ration coupons and cereal prices. Not yet.
Particularly under Obama, America has crept closer and closer to a dictatorship. But something stops us. It’s the sense of life Ayn Rand described as not wishing to be “pushed around.”
Donald Trump represents the anger many Americans feel about being pushed around. Because that’s primarily what government does, in this day and age. It pushes around those who produce for the sake of those who cannot or will not produce anything. It pushes around legal citizens for the sake of illegal aliens. It pushes around profit-making citizens for the sake of those who live off the government. It pushes around the American military for the sake of politically correct desires to never, ever offend a single Muslim — a clearly impossible task.
How many Americans are as angry as Trump? Clearly, a lot of them. At least a lot of Republicans and independents who don’t like Obama’s socialism and pacifism.
It’s understandable. None of the other Republicans fire them up. Most of them center on issues such as Planned Parenthood funding and marriage as one-man-one-woman. They get angry about those things, but not a whole lot else.
And the other candidates are all part of government. They’re all Senators, Congressmen, governors or former governors. Is government experience such a good thing? Not if you want to curb or even reverse the growth of government. Something happens to people when they enter politics as a career; and it’s never a good thing. Whatever may be true of Donald Trump, he’s not part of that Washington establishment. Whatever he’d be like as president, it seems highly likely that he’d be different, and that’s appealing to many people as well.
I have been reading Donald Trump’s most recent book (Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again, published in 2011), and am about halfway through it. Trump is no principled advocate of individual rights or unhampered capitalism as Ayn Rand was — not even close. He identifies with Ronald Reagan, who was a pragmatic conservative who leaned more to the right than most, but ultimately kept the government more or less as we knew it, while reducing taxes and relaxing a few regulations.
Reagan’s era bought America some time. Trump hopes to do the same.
In his book, Trump favors a mixture of right and wrong ideas. But all the ideas he favors are related to the two most pressing concerns of a country: the economy and defense. This makes him different from other Republicans, who for the most part don’t seem to feel anger — or really much of anything — other than their desire to end Obamacare (they will not) and the sanctity of marriage as traditionally defined (too late for that, as much of the culture has changed).
Trump believes that we need protectionism to block against the manipulation of authoritarian, economically fascist governments such as China and Russia. He’s wrong about protectionism, but he’s right about free markets. And he’s right that nations like China are not free economies, and that government rulers in those nations are calling most of the shots. He’s right that we could stand up to these nations better than we do (which is not at all, under Obama), but he seems not to fully appreciate the powerful idea that turning America into a fully free market economy (i.e. ending regulations, subsidies and controls) is the only solution. To his credit, he does favor lowering taxes and regulation, at least in theory, as do most Republicans — in theory, never in practice.
On some subconscious and emotional level, Trump seems to sense that it’s either a free market or socialism — and his emotions are definitely on the side of the free market. What he lacks is consistency, as Reagan did. Like Reagan, he calls to “make America great again.” He does not appear to know what will make America great, or at least he’s unable to name it, other than through anger. But he knows that Obama, Hillary Clinton and the like are not it — and in fact, represent the opposite of it.
Trump believes that Social Security and Medicare are programs that can and must be saved. He’s wrong about that, and his own recognition of our spiraling national debt proves that these programs are not sustainable. (Reagan also believed we could save those programs, and clearly he was wrong too.) America is going broke primarily because of these programs, because citizens take more out of them than they put into them. This problem predated Obama, although he’s right that Obama has made more people dependent on the welfare state, with massive expansions in Medicaid, food stamps and Social Security disability.
Trump is angry. He’s angry at a lot of the right people for the right reasons — not intellectually, but with respect to the sense of life that Ayn Rand described.
His sense of life — very present in his book — is that America has a right to exist, can do much better and should do something about it. Whether Trump is able or willing to take the incredibly hard steps required to completely reverse course on our drift towards socialism at home and pacifism abroad would be something to watch.
Leftists and socialists are disturbed by Trump, because they’re disturbed by anyone who challenges their world view and their unending expansion of social programs and government intervention in economic life. They will seize on his weak points (there are many), and his contradictions, because socialism/leftism has nothing postive to offer; only destruction.
Moderates and some Republicans and independents are bothered by Trump because he’s angry. They’re frightened of anger, regardless of its source or content. He turns them off for that reason alone.
But Trump’s anger is one of the best things about him. So far, he’s the only person who appears to be angry for many of the right reasons. Anger alone — like sense of life — will not save America. We can only hope that it might buy us some more time.
Whatever you think of Trump, you have to admire the spirit — left in some of us — implied by the refusal to ever, ever utter the words “Yes, sir” to the kind of people who presently lead our government.
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