The GOP has been the party of cruelty for decades. In Trump, it's found its champion.By Neal Gabler / BillMoyers.com December 9, 2016
If you have any doubts that the phenomenon of Donald Trump was a long time a’coming, you have only to read a piece that Gore Vidal wrote for Esquire magazine in July 1961, when the conservative movement was just beginning and even Barry Goldwater was hardly a glint in Republicans’ eyes.
Vidal’s target was Paul Ryan’s idol, and the idol of so many modern conservatives: the trash novelist and crackpot philosopher Ayn Rand, whom Vidal quotes thusly:
“It was the morality of altruism that undercut America and is now destroying her.
“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequence of freedom… or the primordial morality of altruism with its consequences of slavery, etc.
“To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.
“The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral…”
In most quarters, in 1961, this stuff would have been regarded as nearly sociopathic nonsense, but, as Vidal noted, Rand was already gaining adherents: “She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who hate the ‘welfare state,’ who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts.”
Because he was writing at a time when there was still such a thing as right-wing guilt, Vidal couldn’t possibly have foreseen what would happen: Ayn Rand became the guiding spirit of the governing party of the United States. Her values are the values of that party. Vidal couldn’t have foreseen it because he still saw Christianity as a kind of ineluctable force in America, particularly among small-town conservatives, and because Rand’s “philosophy” couldn’t have been more anti-Christian. But, then, Vidal couldn’t have thought so many Christians would abandon Jesus’ teachings so quickly for Rand’s. Hearts hardened.
The transformation and corruption of America’s moral values didn’t happen in the shadows. It happened in plain sight. The Republican Party has been the party of selfishness and the party of punishment for decades now, trashing the basic precepts not only of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but also of humanity generally.
Vidal again: “That it is right to help someone less fortunate is an idea that has figured in most systems of conduct since the beginning of the race.”It is, one could argue, what makes us human. The opposing idea, Rand’s idea, that the less fortunate should be left to suffer, is what endangers our humanity now. I have previously written in this space how conservatism dismantled the concept of truth so it could fill the void with untruth. I called it an epistemological revolution. But conservatism also has dismantled traditional morality so it could fill that void. I call that a moral revolution.
To identify what’s wrong with conservatism and Republicanism — and now with so much of America as we are about to enter the Trump era — you don’t need high-blown theories or deep sociological analysis or surveys. The answer is as simple as it is sad: There is no kindness in them.
That the draining of kindness from huge swaths of the country occurred with so little resistance is, in large measure, the fault of the media. The media have long prided themselves on being value neutral. It was Dragnet journalism: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Or: “We report, you decide” — a slogan coopted by the right-wing Fox News, ironically to underscore that they weren’t biased, at least not liberally biased.