By MIKE ROBINSON
DOES DONALD TRUMP care about anything beyond using money as a metric of life’s achievements?
In between clearing brush and carting it to the burn pile, I just read an early Internet version of Jane Mayer’s March 27 New Yorker article entitled Trump’s Money Man. It’s a typical long, intensively researched, cleanly written New Yorker piece that lays out an argument that makes sense.
It traces key Trump campaign contributor Robert Mercer’s influence beyond the mere realm of money.
When the only metric that counts is money, what’s the value of any aspect of civil society, helping others, being kind or empathetic?
Mayer argues that Mercer, an extremely reclusive electrical engineer and math nerd who founded the Long Island algorithm-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, is a key inside influencer. She painstakingly documents his libertarian roots, his deep and narrow focus on money as the key measure of personal achievement, and his acute shyness (“He can barely look you in the eye when he talks”).
She quotes Trump saying that his longest conversation with him was “two words.” He apparently has a conspiratorial frame of mind, thinks climate change is “overblown” and, most importantly, has much influence over Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Bannon, the lead White House strategist.
Mayer notes that finance billionaires like Mercer have “no stake in society,” unlike earlier American industrialists like Henry Ford, who actually “built real things.”
This raises an important consideration when thinking of Trump’s orientation to civil society and citizens, given his corporate preference for branding real estate built by others and his desire to operate hotels owned by others. One can see a spark of Mercer, the hedge fund brander and operator, in this aspect of Trump. Neither man has spent any time supervising the manufacture of pickup trucks on an assembly line crewed by union members.
Mercer and Trump now play pivotal roles (one with money, the other with power), in enabling the alt-right and white supremacist voices, climate change deniers, and diversity phobes to find a growing licence for their wares. They also empower ideological zealots like Bannon in his quest to destroy the administrative “Deep State.”
When the only metric that counts is the money you made, what’s the value of government bureaucracy, universal health-care coverage, the arts and humanities, Meals on Wheels, Planned Parenthood, indeed any aspect of civil society, helping others, being kind or empathetic?
It would appear that in concert, Mercer, Kushner and Bannon, all of whom have Trump’s ear whenever they seek it, have allied as Trump’s “Asperger whisperers.” They’ve figured out how to move him beyond his singular deep focus – himself – to the much larger field of Ayn Rand’s core philosophy (read her 1943 novel The Fountainhead for a synopsis) of objectivism.
This philosophy is allied with an alt-right libertarian streak and a fear of what are now branded “coastal elites” – their code for those well-educated and high-performing citizens who function well in diverse urban contexts, who identify most acutely as urbanites (in cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles), and who find like-minded compatriots more easily in London, Paris or Berlin than, say, the small towns of the American midwest.
Simply put, the Asperger whispers fear an emerging interconnected world that shuns Caucasian supremacy, questions the acquisition of wealth for its own sake, values the arts and humanities as much as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) thought, and craves connectivity more than individuality.
Somehow, the indulgence of different cultures, languages and faiths is deeply threatening to objectivists, who think the primary purpose of government is promoting the means of personal wealth creation.
The Deep State is anathema to libertarians; they see bureaucrats as empathy whores. Artists and poets are inexplicable deplorables (to borrow a word) who deserve to starve in their garrets. The poor are losers.
Fundamentally, how a person defines their happiness is at the core of our political dilemma. For Trumpists, true happiness is attainable only through maximal control of your destiny, with minimal government regulation and judicial probity.
The biggest legitimate department of the objectivist state is its army, whose role is protection of the oligarchs’ core philosophy.
Objectively, there is no need for Meals on Wheels. Warheads on missiles make more sense.
Writing from Powell River, B.C., Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.
© 2017 Distributed by Troy Media