Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Donald Trump Doesn't Think Very Much of You

I still remember Murray Kempton’s appearance on Firing Line. Buckley asked him why supporting communism wasn’t considered as serious an offense as supporting fascism and Kempton replied that it was because communism was never a large enough force in America to matter. And then you heard off camera him say “I’m afraid that’s not a very good answer.” I started to look for my wallet and keys on the assumption that a modest public intellectual was worth checking out (and the book, Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events, is very good).

Donald Trump is the polar opposite of Kempton. His every utterance is terrific, as he is only too happy to tell you. Trump went to the best (read toughest) schools and got terrific grades. He has made tremendous, JUST TREMENDOUS, amounts of money. The Trump candidacy isn’t about anything really except that he is the ubermensch.

And what’s amusing about Trump’s supporters is that, apart from their adulation, Trump would have nothing to do with them. Unless you’ve made a couple billion in the marketplace, won world championships in athletics, or agree with Donald Trump on everything, it’s pretty likely he would regard you as a loser. And if there is anything that is clear about his philosophy it is that the world is made up of winners and losers.

Trump the candidate brings immediately to mind the famous Whittaker Chambers review of Atlas Shrugged:

“The news about this book [read, candidate] seems to me to be that any ordinarily sensible head could not possibly take it seriously, and that, apparently, a good many do. …

I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber–go!’”


I suspect Chambers is taking a bit of license with Rand—but then that’s probably why it comes to mind—and it isn’t quite fair to Trump either. But Chambers has it seems, even prospectively, a better handle on Trump than far too many who are experiencing him live.



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