I wanted to understand the mind of the Trump supporter a little better so I read The MAGA Doctrine by Charlie Kirk (Donald Trump highly recommended it in a Tweet). In the Preface Kirk tells us that the book is a kind of manifesto of what Trump supporters think he is all about:
I’ve seen President Trump speak in front of high school students, my fellow young conservative activists eager to hear him — and afterward, I often hear students ask me, is there a key book or manifesto I can study to really understand the philosophy behind this burgeoning movement? . . . . Now there is. I would not presume to speak for the president, but I will try as best I can to explain the old ideas underlying the fresh thinking he brings to a country that desperately needs it.
Before I finished it an eerie recollection of another book kept intruding into my mind, one that I read many years ago as a historical document behind another disruptive right-wing movement. That was Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. No, of course neither Kirk nor Trump are Nazis or advocating the extermination of Jews and war to find living space for Germans. As someone else has pointed out, Trump is something of the polar opposite of a Nazi in that he enables the Business world to rule government (Nazis controlled every aspect of life including Business). So what was it that brought Mein Kampf to my mind?
Mein Kampf blamed Germany’s woes on the betrayal of evil-minded or simply immoral Jews (that’s my recollection, at least). MAGA Doctrine had a parallel theme. All USA’s woes (and some of them imaginary) can be blamed on a betrayal of traitorous, immoral “liberals”.
Just as Mein Kampf, as I recall it, failed to understand clearly the way German society worked by replacing clear-headed analysis with imagined conspiracies and betrayals and selfish anti-German motives of Jews and those who let Jews have their way, so Kirk shows no evidence of a clear-headed, informed awareness of either US or world history. Everything, all history and current affairs, are seen through the perspective of a “betrayal of liberals”.
Simply replace Jews with “liberals” and we have a book with a very similar theme.
Liberals appear by definition to be unpatriotic, hypocritical, stupid, sinister. And they lie with their “corrupt media”. It is impossible to reconcile the way Kirk portrays their policies with reality as anyone who has seriously studied them and their philosophy would know.
Ignorance pervades the book. Karl Marx — and by extension, all “socialists”, and by extension, many “liberals” — is even said to be opposed to any form of fair exchange of goods.
There can be no honest debate or discussion with a mind that is convinced from the outset that the opponent is a hostile subversive who wants to undermine all that you believe is good.
There can only by mud-slinging and misrepresentation from the MAGA side.
. . .
Then I noticed something else on the web, this time by someone accusing others with alternative views of Jesus of being hell-bent on attacking and destroying Christianity. I guess it’s the same with some biblical scholars, too. Some of them find it necessary to personally attack those (especially outsiders) who explore different perspectives on Christian origins so that the mainstream assumptions are called into question. The idea that others with radically different perspectives (and questions) might be seeking to be as intellectually honest as they can is something they seem not to be able to accept. (Yes, I’m thinking primarily of those who suggest it is legitimate to at least question the historicity fo Jesus just as some scholars have questioned the historicity of “biblical Israel”.) Such critics are assumed from the outset to be sinister, motivated by destructive and harmful wishes against the most precious beliefs humanity possesses.
And so the world turns.