BY: Matthew Walther
I’ve always given Donald Trump credit for at least pretending to disregard the Republican Party line on taxes, entitlements, and so on. But as far as I am concerned, he blew it when he told reporters that he is a fan of Ayn Rand, the eighteenth-rate novelist beloved of Paul Ryan.Read More
I’ve always given Donald Trump credit for at least pretending to disregard the Republican Party line on taxes, entitlements, and so on. But as far as I am concerned, he blew it when he told reporters that he is a fan of Ayn Rand, the eighteenth-rate novelist beloved of Paul Ryan. USA Today reports:
Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, “It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.” He identified with Howard Roark, the novel’s idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.
When I pointed out that The Fountainhead is in a way about the tyranny of groupthink, Trump sat up and said, “That’s what is happening here.” He then recounted a call he received from a liberal journalist: “How does it feel to have done what you have done? I said what have I done. He said nobody ever in the history of this country has done what you have done. And I said, well, if I lose, then no big deal. And he said no, no, if you lose, it doesn’t matter because this will be talked about forever.
“And I said it will be talked about more if I win.”
I read The Fountainhead many, many years ago and the only thing I remember from it is the image of the hero diving naked over a waterfall on, I think, the first page. That and the rape. In Atlas Shrugged I gave up when we meet the pirate character with a cartoonish Scandinavian name. I believe there might have been a rape in there somewhere as well. Call me cynical, but I doubt that Trump made it any any further than I did. He doesn’t strike me as a big reader.
Even if he’s just shooting off about having read her, though, it’s weird to me that Trump would seize on Rand. I don’t get the sense that the author of Anthem would have liked him very much. If he resembles any character in her work, it’s one of those worthless takers whose attitude toward business is practical rather than an attempt to live out the writings of John Stuart Mill as if they were sacred scripture. He’s not a doctrinaire classical liberal or even a garden-variety fusionist conservative, much less an “Objectivist,” but rather a populist moderate willing—I hope!—to do business with social conservatives. I have no idea what things would look like under President Trump, but it’s pretty clear that in Ayn Rand’s America of Leni Riefenstahl-chested Übermenschen, there would be no Social Security or Medicare, no child tax credits, no social safety net for the poorest, no public schools. Would there even be a fire department, or is that service something the doers and makers would have to pay for with the sweat of their brows?
Anyway, it was disheartening to see her name come up. (Maybe tonight I’ll pour myself an “Ayn Brand.”) Till now I had thought the days when she was a cult figure on the American right, when Ryan and even John Boehner were paying lip service to her work, had gone the way of Tea Party Patriots rallies. The antiseptic viciousness at the core of Rand’s fiction and her life has nothing to offer any humane political party. There are lots of things Trump can and should do to endear himself to Republican grandees. This is not one of them.Read Less