Who is John Galt?

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The Republican Party is struggling to come to grips with the fact that their “base” is no longer loyal to their “principles”. Even worse, the one leading these people astray is a businessman who should be poster boy of what the party principles say all should aspire to.

The party clearly has two choices. They can either reflect more deeply on how their “principles” apply to those they seek to lead, or they can blame this wayward band and their leader as apostates.

It probably doesn’t surprise you that the conservative Republican establishment response is that the working class who are the core of Trump’s support can only blame themselves for their situation and their leader is not a true conservative.

At the core of this dilemma is the Randian Objectivism that has become the bedrock philosophy of mainstream conservatism. It was reflected in Romney’s claim that 47% of 2012 voters would never support him because they were dependent on the government. Paul Ryan famously described the social safety net as “a hammock the lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”.

Rand’s prototypical hero is the businessman, John Galt. He criticized any state intervention in society because it allowed poor people to leech the hard-earned wealth of the rich (sound familiar?). Conservative Establishment Republicans use this philosophy to absolve themselves from any responsibility for their own actions by claiming a sort of social Darwinism. They claim that the outcome of any individual’s life is purely a function of their willingness to overcome any adverse circumstance they encounter with ability and intelligence. Helping those that are in need only prolongs their struggle. They point to their own success as evidence of their piety to this principle without acknowledging that in most cases it was the result of an advantageous birth.

Paul Krugman does a wonderful job of summarizing this attitude.

Stripped down to its essence, the G.O.P. elite view is that working-class America faces a crisis, not of opportunity, but of values. That is, for some mysterious reason why many of our citizens have, as Mr. Ryan puts it, lost “their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.” And this crisis of values, they suggest, has been aided and abetted by social programs that make life too easy on slackers.

What science tells us, however, is markedly different. The basic cause for the social dysfunction in the black community in this country is not some genetic inability to form strong family bonds. It is the result of systematic elimination of economic opportunity. To paraphrase a Baltimore resident, it is unreasonable to expect people to demonstrate middle class values in the absence of middle class jobs.

What we are now seeing are the same social ills that have been associated with the black community, showing up in the white working class community — addiction, violence, crime, single parent families, chronic disease, increased suicide, and shorter life expectancy.

That in and of itself should not be surprising.

It also should not be surprising that those who are suffering from decreasing economic opportunity and collapsing social stability are both angry and afraid.

What is surprising, however, is that though this phenomena is present throughout the industrialized west, only the US is suffering a rise in mortality among middle-aged whites. Everywhere else mortality continues to trend downward.

Why are things different here?

Paul Ryan and the self-serving conservative Republican elites have successfully used Randian Objectivism to dismantle much of our social safety net. Every other western industrialized country has robust systems to help workers manage the transitions during these sorts of economic disruptions. The result of our purposefully frayed social safety net is not a robust new generation of John Galt’s freed from the shackles of dependency, but a surly terrified generation of workers who have finally realized that they are being exploited and are no longer willing to take the blame.

The delicious irony is that the man leading this populist revolution bent on overthrowing the Republican Objectivists is the epitome of Randian self-responsibility. He is supposed to suggest that those who are struggling just need to be more responsible and work a little harder. Instead his whole career has been built on a false promise that Trump’s success was contagious. It would rub off on you if you just purchased one of his products, visited one of his properties, or watched one of his reality shows. Rather than lecture the disgruntled white working class, he agrees that they have received a raw deal. Rather than suggest that they are responsible for their own success, he blames the current political establishment (Republican and Democratic) for making bad deals that have disadvantaged workers. He promises his followers that he will be able to relieve their pain by replacing those bad deals with good ones that he will negotiate on their behalf.

FDR recognized the same thing. The Great Depression decimated the economy because unregulated capitalism ran amok. FDR made a new deal with workers. Rather than replace capitalism, he proposed a new mixed economy — strong business constrained by a strong government. Government will also construct a social safety net. That safety net would allow workers to retire with some dignity when they grew too old for physical labor. It would also mitigate the pain of individual job loss when economies contract or individual companies fail.

After the biggest economic constriction since the Great Depression, workers are again stressed and angry about the abuses of big business and the failure of the government to live up to its promises.

Donald Trump claims he can deliver a better deal. His ability to convince workers that this is possible is testimony to the level of their desperation as well as his talent as a con man.

But it is also fascinating that when faced with the choice between channeling John Galt or FDR, he chose FDR.

5 Responses to “Who is John Galt?”

  1. Keith says:

    Trump said SS will not be touched.

    http://www.npr.org/2016/03/12/470130961/fact-check-republican-candidates-on-keeping-or-changing-social-security

    In this I disagree with him.

    Your post is built on a false narrative. Try listening to him.

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Trump said SS will not be touched.

    Exactly. That was the whole point of my post.

    Trump SHOULD be John Galt. He is the poster child for John Galt. But instead he is channeling FDR. He wants to strengthen SS. He promises to get the government working again for his supporters. He says that he can get them a better deal – a new deal.

    I don’t believe him for a moment, but this is SOOOO far afield from the standard conservative Republican platform that it cannot be ignored.

    Because of his violent response to dissent and his positions on immigration, women, and muslims; he will fail spectacularly if nominated. Fortunately, he will take most of the Republican Party with him. The Dems will regain control of the Senate and make significant gains in the House.

    It is also the death knell for the Tea Party. Those who support Trump have rejected obstructionism and the ideology that goes with it. They want government to work better and are going to be unwilling to hold it hostage to some higher principle. Hillary/Bernie know this too and will find it pretty easy to use their majority in the Senate to build a coalition of the willing in the House that will include those people. It is going to be a pretty cold 8 years for those remaining Ted Cruz obstructionists who thought they could accomplish their goals by grinding the government to a halt.

    To hear Ted talk, there is no way he will support Trump. So what is he going to do when Trump wins the nomination?

    I will also be very interesting to see what happens to Fox News. Trump has demonstrated that he doesn’t need Fox’s support. I wonder who is going to become the new “Fox” for the Trumpinista’s? Maybe it won’t be broadcast news at all and will finally switch to social media.

  3. Keith says:

    You haven’t been watching. The standard republican position does not represent conservatives/republicans. A majority agree with Kashich. So do you….

    You find my comments about my fellow employees, union democrats, to be antidotal and useless, but let me tell you, the standard dem positions DO NOT represent the regular folk dems either. Do you think they actually support Hillary? Do you believe the guy on the line at ford is a socialist? I can tell you they don’t give a rip about climate change. They laugh at gay marriage, they don’t fret over “whual street” and millyounaires and billyounaires. Etc. etc etc.

    Now history is written by the winners and the dems out number the repubs so any win is attached with the winners spin. But Obamas 8 years will by no measure be remembers for years rank and files Americans supported his agenda.

    I’m waiting for the Anerican party to replace these to parties that have long lost their way.

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I have been watching.

    That’s why I’m commenting.

    The leading Republican candidate, the one getting the most votes in the Republican primaries, has a platform that is closer in many ways to Obama than it is Mitt Romney.

    A majority agree with Kashich

    Which “majority” is that? The only primary he has won is in his own home state. Otherwise he’s been no better than third everywhere else and has no chance of catching either Trump or Cruz. His strategy is that Trump will fail to get enough delegates before the convention. The convention will be a celebrity death match between Cruz and Trump with Kasich emerging as the only candidate both warring faction can agree on. I think it is a VERY long shot.

    As far as who supports whom, we’ll find out in November. You’ve been wrong the last couple of Presidential elections. Let’s see if your anecdotal sense of the attitudes of the electorate is any more accurate this year.

    As far as the parties go, I think it is going to be very difficult for a viable third party to emerge. That said, I also believe that the existing Republican Party is going to fracture. The question is where will those factions go.

    If you look at recent history, we had a similar situation in the 60’s when the Dixiecrats broke away from the Democractic Party because of civil rights legislation. Both Strom Thurmond and George Wallace ran credible presidential campaigns heading up versions of that party. It didn’t become a viable third party because Nixon and Lee Atwater developed the Southern Strategy to capture those votes for the Republican Party.

    Jimmy Carter won an election with the support of evangelicals. That was the last time that they voted for a Democrat. Reagan captured them for the Republican Party with his social agenda and the help of Phyllis Schlafly. Obama created a new coalition which included overwhelming support from young people and minorities. Fox broadcasting helped create the Tea Party backlash to Obama’s election. The Republican Party took back the House and the Senate based on adopting many of the Tea Party issues.

    It seems likely at this point that the Democrats will be able to bring together the forces of Sanders and Clinton which should preserve the coalition that gives Democrats a significant electoral college edge.

    It also appears clear that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee.

    The real question is how will the Republican party respond to a Trump nomination?

    My guess is that the party will fracture with some supporting and some standing on the sidelines (similar to what happened with Goldwater).

    The real question in my mind will be what happens to the Tea Party? If they hold fast to their ideology, they will be in opposition to the basic tenants of the Trump campaign. If that happens, then there is going to be a real fight for the heart and soul of the party.

    As I’ve said before, my current thought is that moderation will return to the Republican Party as voters reject Tea Party obstructionism and Trump authoritarianism. This moderate Republican Party will find ways to work with Democrats and government will start working again. Voters will reward those who find ways to compromise, and we will be able to bid farewell to the decade of extremism that threatened to derail democracy.

  5. Keith says:

    Again you failed to see my point. I’m not calling results or elections. Rather what Americans believe. And they don’t vote that way. The sense is that politicians don’t represent them. DC does not work!
    Because I said more people agree with Kachish I mean they agree with his positions. That doesn’t me they vote for him. Do you actually think that what people vote for?

    What you’ve disrcibed of the Republican Party is in the correct direction. What I wonder, and you constantly fail to see my point, is when will this happen to the dems as well. The den platform DOES NOT represent what the rank and file believe. Again read my comment my dear Sir. The guy or gal on the line could care less about climate change, income inequality, gay marriage, etc. when does they group fracture? Let’s build a party that cares about US!!!

    Example with your party. How many super delegates has Bernie won? What percentage? Are the democrats lead ship really concerned about what the people want? They are of step with their own party. See my point?

    We can do better then this. We should do better then this.

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