Peter Pan, the Easter Bunny, Ayn Rand, and Stephen Bannon

Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent would have responded to the title answer with this question, “What are four ideas kids believe, but outgrow?” We all want to believe in everlasting youth, but age and responsibility eventually catch up to most of us and we gladly leave Neverland behind in favor of the challenges and rewards that wait. Reality shelves the Easter Bunny with his endless supply of fancy, dyed eggs more quickly than the others–but those chocolate ears begging to be bitten off are still awfully tempting.

In the day-to-day world Ayn Rand, the Objectivism philosopher, and Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s political theorist and advisor should lose their charm closely behind the first two. Unfortunately, a few take far too long to see the light. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is, against all reason, still a devotee of Rand and what may end up being at the top of the “Better Late Than Never” category; Donald Trump may finally be losing his infatuation with Bannon.

Ayn Rand, who famously espoused her theories in the best sellers, Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, contends that humans are heroic beings with their own happiness as the only moral purpose. She contends that there is no consciousness without attachment to reality–what you see is what you get. Reality is all you can think about or react to.

This fairly simplistic view of the world and self-satisfying look at people is perfect for late teen readers and thinkers just coming out of the egocentric stage of development. It makes perfect sense to a college sophomore to think that every action should be taken for one’s own benefit. However, it is soon discovered that there are flaws in any theory that has to spend an inordinate amount of time contending that this is not hedonism, and not anarchy. Ms. Rand explained at length that some smattering of government is okay as long as it is true to laissez-faire capitalism and retains a social system of full individual rights. Neither work very well in practice. As those sophomores become seniors and young graduates, they begin to see the benefits of community and the pleasures of co-existence. For everyone but Speaker Ryan, Ayn Rand and her philosophically wobbly ideological movement get stuffed into the attic with the fur-ball rabbit and the flying kid.

Ayn Rand’s teachings are a gateway to Steve Bannon’s ultra right-wing politics. I don’t know if Bannon still believes in Rand, but it is a certainty that he did at one time. Bannon’s Nationalist, “America First”, deconstruct the central government thought has one degree of separation from Objectivism.

This way of thinking is natural for Mr. Trump’s extreme egotism and mystery non-plan for moving forward. When the right-wing base began taking Mr. Trump’s campaigning about spending money on U.S. needs exclusively and being concerned with the United States to the exclusion of all others to heart, he saw their reaction and fed that beast all the way to the White House. He hired Steve Bannon to craft that singular vision and we got phrases like, “I want to be/am president of the United States, not president of the world.”

Mr. Trump saw a lot of himself in Steve Bannon and embraced the sameness, likely too closely, right into the Oval Office. Mr. Trump still believes his life-long mantra that what is good for him is good for everyone. Bannon’s insistence that persuasion to their way of thinking is sound reasoning motivates Mr. Trump to push on.

Fortunately for us, Mr. Trump seems to be moving out of his low-level developmental stage and may be ready to seal Steve Bannon, Nationalism, and all of the dark notions and fears about other people and foreign communities that are baggage that come with Bannon and his tunnel vision, deep into that dusty box of obselescense. We can only hope that people developmentally immature enough to think of Stephen K. Bannon as some sort of guru will soon have to Google his name to find out what he’s up to rather than reading about him in the headlines.

Mr. Trump can rightfully be compared to a college freshman taking Political Science 101 during these first 100 days serving as president. His learning curve remains steep, but he is discovering that it’s a big world out there and that for the last 70 years the United States has been the leader of all those who love and desire freedom. He is finding that Steve Bannon’s snits over keeping his ball in his own backyard aren’t feasible in reality–especially when we have one of the few balls in the world that hasn’t had the stitches torn and the cover shredded.


  1. A teen entering college is not leaving the “egocentric stage of development”, she is attaining the fourth plane of development, which is individuation, self-sufficiency, personal responsibility, and full agency to create her life according to her fundamental values and choices. It is the attainment of ego, not its mutilation. This is the victory Ayn Rand champions.

    In college, people such as the writer of this opinion, ridicule it. They tell them “that’s not for you. Grow up and assume your role as a member of The Borg.

    How dare he insinuate that the goal of destroying the fire of youth is freedom. The real motto of someone advocating a young person give up is “Collectivism Macht Frei”

  2. Joe Cheff says:

    Yet another criticism of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy from someone who clearly does not understand it. It is a difficult undertaking to fully understand and integrate any philosophy, so there is no surprise here that Mr. Donnelly has not done his homework. To link, in anyway, Bannon’s nationalism to Rand’s Objectivism is to either completely ignore or be utterly ignorant of one of her philosophy’s major and most basic tenets — all forms of collectivism, nationalism being one, are evil.

    • Martin Locke says:

      So, you are saying Trumps ideas are intrinsically evil?

      • Joe Cheff says:

        Nothing is intrinsically evil. Evil is a judgment upon the actions of men and judging by Bannon’s economic nationalism, his ideas lead to evil. Sacrificing the lives of some (those who wish to trade or move their businesses outside of the US) for the benefit of others is an evil thing. So long as Trump advocates for policies that place the “nation” above the individual, his actions will be evil. They will be just as evil as in the past when the proletariat’s, the state’s, or the race’s well-being demanded the sacrifice of those who do not belong.

  3. So few understand ANY of this that it (this discussion) is largely inconsequential to the reality we all face. I don’t believe Trump was guided by any coherent philosophy nor set of principles. The “perfect storm” of talk about people of color (Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, et al) “taking over” the USA, a well-financed and sustained GOP “hate/scare campaign,” effective vilification of HRC, Bernie’s unwiting support of the GOP “HRC/untrustworthy” charge (and more), Democrats’ incompetent campaign strategy, Black Lives Matter omitting “too,” Trump’s willingness to lie about anything, and Russia’s campaign “help” led to the disaster we face today. Wake-up call!!!

  4. It’s no sin to not understand Objectivism. But why go through the trouble to critique that which you don’t know? I’ll never understand why people have the urge to do that. Hate Rand’s ideas if you want to, but go through the trouble to understand them first.

    Personally, I think her ideas are great. It’s hard to argue with reason, purpose, and self-esteem.

  5. Terry Donnelly says:

    I do understand Objectivism as it is written. Part of the problem is that it sits on an incomplete foundation and interpretations can be made. Ms. Rand never does explain the differences between her writings and hedonism except to say that hedonism isn’t the same as Objectivism. She stems anarchy by advocating for pure capitalism, which doesn’t work in practice. It is best suited as a debate foil for socialism. Rand may reject any racialism or Nationalism, but the next logical step forward from her teachings are those very issues. If one is bent on satisfying one’s self, it is not a leap that anyone with a different culture is a threat. It is also not much of a leap to find like minded people seeking similar life goals to band together as a stronger unit…not Rand’s teaching, but a logical next step.

    • You prove you don’t understand Objectivism with every one of the points you just posted.

      I could deconstruct them one by one, but how about just one? “…its on an incomplete foundation and interpretations can be made…”
      No other philosophy you can name (which does not include mysticism) is so complete and foundational. Any interpretations would be constructed from your needs, not logically from the foundation of Objectivism. Go ahead and voice your interpretations, but they are not founded in Ayn Rand.

  6. Andrea Hendricks says:

    I guess it is OK to pick one book out of hundreds of thousands to put up as the “ideal solution.” What Rand proposes in her narrative is exactly what Adolph Hitler did. As we can also see, Trump and his team are much less successful at “draining the swamp” and rather rely on lies and deception to cover their failures. Maybe Rand was right, Trump is the enemy of the people.

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