Last week Paul Ryan and Donald Trump began an interpretive dance that will end with a show of party unity. That it is just a dance is indicated by its practical uselessness: since Trump is not a man of his word, what words could he possibly say that could reasonably change Ryan’s mind about him? But since Ryan is the highest-ranking Republican and disunity hurts the party, the speaker of the House will continue to move to unify as much as he’s able. That’s his job.
But not my job. My job is standing up for Truth, Justice and the American way. Even when I’m in my street clothes.
While I have not yet aligned myself with the #NeverTrump camp — I’m wary of absolute declarations in an unpredictable world — my sympathies lie that way. I have heard the argument that a non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary, and I actually think it has more moral weight than the #NeverTrumpers admit. Hillary is a nightmare — a deeply corrupt leftist whose heart seems empty of everything but the will to power — whereas Trump is a deeply corrupt populist whose heart seems empty of everything but the will to power and so might occasionally do the right thing. That’s something, I guess.
But the fact is, Donald Trump’s policies, whatever they are today, are not what worry me about him. Given the opposition, even his lies don’t stand out as particularly special. What makes Trump especially repugnant to me — repugnant enough to make even the unacceptable Hillary slightly less unacceptable — is his tendency toward violence.
It’s no use saying this tendency isn’t there. It’s there, all right. He repeatedly called for violence against hecklers, urging his angry supporters to “knock the crap” out of them. When one of them did in fact sucker punch a protestor already being escorted out of a rally, he did not condemn him. He hesitated when asked to condemn David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, thus giving a wink and a nod to his white supremacist supporters. That he did condemn them at other times means nothing. That, as my friend Ben Shapiro says, is a question you have to get right a hundred percent of the time. He also failed to condemn his followers when they unleashed a barrage of anti-semitic death threats against Julia Ioffe after she wrote a hit piece on Mrs. Trump.
Again, you can pick these statements apart and make excuses for them, but they show a dangerous leaning toward unjustified violent action, toward violence that does not fall under the rubric of war or self-defense. They are signs of a man who thinks that power confers the right to use force.
I have many moral and aesthetic disagreements with Ayn Rand, but about government and the economy she was often right with marvelous exactness. This is what she has her hero John Galt say about physical violence in Atlas Shrugged:
Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.
To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man’s capacity to live.
Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.
Rand’s point is that a man must be able know reality in order to live, and violence keeps him from that knowledge. We call such a use of force tyranny. Trump’s unwavering instinct toward tyranny is not a matter of policy or hairstyle or the way he treats women in his spare time. It’s a genuine danger to the American polity. Even in the context of this degraded election cycle, it is an anomalous evil, and it gives #NeverTrump full legitimacy as a point of view.
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