Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Trump And The Rejection of Rationalism–It Feels Good Doesn’t It?
“Man is a rational animal”, say classical economists who analyze the market based on the assumpti0n that consumers will always act in their best interests.
“Wrong, idealistic, and misguided”, say behavioral economists who display volumes of evidence of irrational choice – muscle cars we don’t need, designer dresses when calico would do, and Finocchio al brodo when Campbell’s would do just fine.
Andy Warhol, www.jssgallery.org
Most of us do indeed think we are making rational choices on everything from adjustable rate mortgages, interest-free loans, and time-share condominiums in Aruba; but more often than not it turns out that we didn’t have all the information to make an informed choice, were suckered by advertising or impressive salesmen. What academics have not considered is this middle ground – rational choice, based on limited evidence vs absolute rational choice given all the evidence.
We all, therefore, are as rational as we can be; but since few of us have access to complete or even comprehensive information on any subject, we are consigned to imperfect and only partially rational choice.
There comes a point when we realize that if most if not all are decisions are flawed - that the subjective confounds the objective to such a degree that there is no such thing as partial rationality and only subjectivity.
Some of us refuse to accept subjectivity and the role personal preference, emotion, and the gamut of nurture since the day we were born play in decision-making. We do our best to mine the facts; to analyze pros and cons; to consider social, economic, cultural, historical, and religious factors; and after a thorough check of the balance sheet, make our decisions.
Yet, despite our efforts to retain our militant objectivity, we can’t help but be influenced by the beautiful Hollywood star, the athlete, or the television icon. We dismissively read People Magazine in the beauty parlor, but secretly admire those with beauty, allure, and public prominence. When they speak, we listen. We don’t think we pay them any mind, but we do.
The new American gives in to subjectivity, emotion, personality, preference, and appeal. He has no patience for in-the-weeds facts and figures, policy papers, or endless parsing of judicial decisions. He understands that there are no such things as ‘facts’; and even if there were, there would be no way to purify one’s intellectual vision to focus exclusively on them with no intrusion from the personal past.
Recent psycho-social research has discredited eye-witness accounts of crime. Case after criminal case have shown that people see what they want to see – the black perpetrator, the floozy enabler, the shark, the stud, and the English count. Literature is filled with tales of imperfect vision. Kurosawa, Browning, and Durrell are but three artists who have written about the impossibility of fact and the permanence of impression.
The rise in religious fundamentalism both in the United States and abroad have given a scriptural foundation for subjectivity. The Bible and the Quran are increasingly cited as the sources of truth and the only arbiters of social, moral, and ethical dilemmas. “How do I know? The Bible tells me so” rings more true than ever.
Given all this, is it any surprise to see the rise in conspiracy theories? If complete knowledge can never be acquired; if the truth or fact can never be absolutely determined; and if unproven, speculative sources gain in currency and popularity to explain the world, then belief in aliens, the coming Armageddon, the Jewish Conspiracy, the Communist fluoridation plot, and the foreign birth of Barack Obama are not crazy at all.
We have finally turned a corner. We have been outed as proud irrationalists who have happily and publically tossed ‘objectivity’ into the dust bin, who have embraced emotion, personal judgment, image, persuasiveness, and intimate appeal.
All of which is to say that the phenomenon of Donald Trump should not be surprising to any but the most pedestrian observer. Not only have American voters been put upon by outrageous appeals for ‘diversity’, shamed into denial of their Christianity and patriotism, and branded bigots, homophobes, sexists, and xenophobes by the liberal Left, but they have been left to flounder between the One Percent and the welfare bottom.
Most Trump supporters cannot quote chapter and verse from his policy choir book because there are no verses to quote. The Donald has understood the anti-intellectual, anti-rational zeitgeist of the white, working class American, knows that he is not interested in positions but passion, and has kept his white papers blank.
This anti-objectivist phenomenon is not restricted to the white working class of America. There are thousands of educated, formerly liberal upper-middle class voters who subscribe to the script of the same floorshow. These older Americans cannot believe how civil liberties have been eroded, how fundamental Judeo-Christian values have been dismissed if not trod upon, and how classical principles of civilized behavior enunciated since Cato the Elder in Rome have been totally disregarded. Everything civil, tasteful, and promising has been trampled in the gutter of ‘diversity’ and inclusiveness.
They may have lost their grip on the details of national and international affairs – the fine print of the Iran anti-nuclear agreement, the negotiations among Syria, Turkey, and the EU; the pros-and-cons of educational and social reform – but they have not lost their bearings. Seventy or eighty year of history have amply shown the wisdom of moral rectitude, courage, and honesty.
They no longer parse the position papers, debate the ‘issues’, or participate in colloquia and forums. They know what they know, and American has fallen from its pinnacle of world leadership. Liberal democracy is in disarray and in flight. ?The separation of church and state a chimera.
These older Americans – excepting the unreconstructed, cast-in-stone liberals of the Upper West Side and its affiliates – have given up on negotiated, idealistic, treaties with American minority demagogues and international bullies. “We know what we know”, they say, “and we are not Kafka” – the cockroach turned turtle, humiliated, and discarded.
The young, militant, idealistic advocates for Bernie or Hillary Clinton have no idea what they are up against. The traditional cabal of teachers, unions, Sixties leftists, and Samuel Gompers liberals is waaay behind the times. Rational purpose, causes, and a New World Order are gone. The time for revolution has come.
Barry Goldwater was the first modern conservative. Ronald Reagan was the leader who made radical conservatism popular and acceptable; but nothing can compare with the truly revolutionary conservatism of Donald Trump – a man who appeals not to the parsed and pure intellectual elite but to the hungry, demanding, and angry electorate.
We Trump supporters are happy to finally abandon the presumptuous of rationality; the arrogance of liberal insight; and the ignorant assumptions of objectivity. We know what is right, and we will go down fighting for it.