My views on many things have been shifting lately. Recent events and interactions have forced me to rethink some assumptions and conclusions. One relevant issue is lesser evilism. It seems to me now that this misses the point. In thinking about supporters of Hillary Clinton, I offered a different view:
“What if we take at face value how people vote? Maybe they aren’t voting for a lesser evil. Maybe it is no mere unintended side effect the harm done by the politicians who represent them. Maybe, just maybe voters really do get exactly what they want.”
I’m starting to think the same thing about Trump supporters. Maybe it isn’t really about a mere protest vote. It’s possible they actually like Trump as a person and what he stands for.
Some people like that he is a plutocrat, a supposedly successful businessman. They see the business world as a meritocracy and that the country should be run like a business. As such, Trump has proven himself worthy of power. In a strange way, some people see him as something like an enlightened aristocrat (related to Plato’s philosopher king) who is independently wealthy and so can do what needs to be done. It’s sort of a hope for a modern noblessse oblige.
There is a historical basis for this worldview. Some of the American founders, of course, were slaveholding aristocrats and they liked to envision themselves as a noble vanguard for a new kind of ruling elite, an enlightened aristocracy. The idea was that being independently wealthy would make them politically independent. They would be above it all.
Few of the early ruling elite ever were independently wealthy. Their lifestyle was dependent on the profits made from their plantations and such. Quite a few were even in debt. But that isn’t the case for Trump, as long as you ignore all the times he declared bankruptcy.
It didn’t originally occur to me that Trump was anything more than the spokesperson for blind outrage against the system. I assumed even his followers didn’t take him seriously, as the majority of them don’t seem to mind that he sometimes promotes policies they don’t like (e.g., universal healthcare). I really thought it was just a protest vote in an a campaign season filled with so many horrible candidates.
I’m beginning to think there is more going on, similar to those in the Clinton camp. What helped me to see this other view is a person I know who claims to be a libertarian. But I’ve never been clear about his actual ideology. One of his favorite shows is Star Trek: The Next Generation*, a show that portrays a communist utopia.
I noticed that he was supporting Trump. But, knowing he is smart and educated, I took it as a protest vote. This guy shattered my assumptions by making a case for enlightened plutocracy, with the implication being that Trump will be an enlightened plutocrat. To his mind, libertarian values must be protected from the dirty masses by a ruling elite. He hates democracy and understandably sees it as a failure. Trump is the man for the job. He won’t let democracy get in his way.
I don’t see how a ruling elite ruling over a disenfranchised public is libertarian in any possible interpretation. Then again, I don’t see how Clinton’s neoconservatism and neoliberalism has anything to do with with progressive liberalism. This is the strange way ideology operates in some people’s minds. It’s not about principled consistency. Many people just want their side to win, however they they perceive their group identity. Such things aren’t ever fully conscious and rational.
I’m becoming convinced that lesser evilism can’t explain what is going on. Many people who support Hillary Clinton and Trump do so because they represent precisely what they want. In both cases, it’s a worldview of power and defense of the system, even though different visions of power and of the system.
This was more hidden in the past. But conflict has forced issues to the surface like pus oozing from a wound. We are seeing the unmasked face of our society. And it ain’t pretty.
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*This gives me a hint why someone like this ‘libertarian’ guy would like Star Trek: The Next Generation. The perspective on that society for the show is a semi-military ship that explores and patrols the galaxy. The captain of the ship, Jean-Luc Picard, is essentially a wise and benevolent patriarch.
The viewer rarely sees any outward signs of political democracy such as elections, although the society is a social democracy and a massive welfare state. The only aspect of democracy is the rule of law and judicial process where people are given the opportunity to defend themselves against charges. But one never sees any full-fledged example of democracy.
So, at least on the ship, it is mostly a utopia of a ruling elite and a clear social hierarchy. It’s vaguely libertarian in that people have basic protected civil liberties.