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.