Donald Trump says he’s an Ayn Rand fan. That doesn’t mean much. And not just because he is the vacuous, insult-slinging Donald Trump.
Kirsten Powers of USA Today, in an article printed April 12, says, based on her interview, “Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan.” Trump expressed admiration for The Fountainhead, saying “It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions.”
How can Trump be an Ayn Rand fan while being a nativist, statist, blow-hard? Ayn Rand stood for individual liberty and for an absolute commitment to objectivity.
Lots of people are fans of inspirational novels but never come to grips with the ideas in those novels.
Easy. Trump can be an Ayn Rand fan in the same way I was after I first read her—in the same way most of us are fans of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Two levels of fandom
Trump is a casual Ayn Rand fan. I get it. He read The Fountainhead. He enjoyed it. Maybe it made the business of building seem romantic. Maybe he liked its pro-success message. Maybe he sees his own career of developing skyscrapers as Roarkian.
Lots of people are fans of inspirational novels but never come to grips with the ideas in those novels. When I first read Atlas Shrugged, I read it as science fiction and didn’t take the speeches too seriously. It took me a few years to think it through.
How many of the fans of The Lord of the Rings embrace Tolkien’s anti-technology ideology? Not so many. I daresay, most of them don’t even notice that aspect.
But there is a deeper level of fandom: a person who does go to the trouble to understand the author’s point of view. In the case of Ayn Rand, that would require reading widely in her corpus. For my part, I started to get the idea when I had read The Fountainhead, too, re-read Atlas, and gone on to The Virtue of Selfishness.
Let’s hope no lazy journalist confuses Trump’s ideas with Ayn Rand’s.
There are politicians who have read enough Rand to know better. Rep. Paul Ryan is one. Sen. Ron Johnson is one. Sen. Ted Cruz is another. They know what Rand’s economic freedom message is. They deserve to be judged by its standard, for better or worse. But not Donald Trump. He’s just a light Rand reader—maybe he’s only seen the Fountainhead movie, in fact.
Let’s hope no lazy journalist confuses Trump’s ideas with Ayn Rand’s. That would be absurd. That would be myth-making.
Donald Trump resembles which character from #AynRand's Fountainhead?— The Atlas Society (@TheAtlasSociety)