As we get closer to the full swing of the general election cycle, those sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism will face this question: “Shouldn’t an Objectivist be in favor of Donald Trump? He’s selfish and a powerful businessman, right?”
Shouldn’t an Objectivist be in favor of Donald Trump?It’s a question that I have gotten already, both from supporters of and detractors from her work. Moreover, it’s a question based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the philosophy and its implications on American politics. Gallingly, a self-identifying Objectivist recently made this claim to me in conversation: “Donald Trump is like Howard Roark.”
No, no, and no. USA Today’s Kirsten Powers, in an interview with the now-officialGOP nominee back in April, wrote this nugget: “He identified with Howard Roark, the novel’s idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.” This led another writer to ask whether that’s a good thing.
It’s a common slur used any time a conceited, cold-hearted politician emerges within the GOP: He’s straight out of an Ayn Rand novel. As a student of philosophy and a fan of Rand’s literature and ideas, I completely agree. But, far from the ideal characters of John Galt (Atlas Shrugged) or Howard Roark (The Fountainhead), Donald Trump is a cozy fit with another figure in The Fountainhead: Peter Keating, Howard Roark’s classmate and competitor.
To see why this matters, one must look no further than in the notes Rand wrote about her characters, as relayed by Leonard Peikoff in the afterword of The Fountainhead. Of Roark, she wrote the following: “Above all – the man who lives for himself, as living for oneself should be understood. And who triumphs completely. A man who iswhat he should be.” He is “self-sufficient” and “self-confident.” Continue Reading