Unlike Howard Roark, Donald Trump is a troll who lives for greatness and notoriety in the minds of others.
One of my favorite Democrats, Kirsten Powers, has an article out today, billed as revealing the “kinder, gentler” version of Donald Trump as opposed to his characteristic selfish, anti-PC, tough guy persona.
However, the version of Trump which Powers offers in her piece is more ingratiating rather than kind, smarmy rather than gentle. Trump’s so-called pivot to look more “presidential” has only made his personality seem as unctuous as his fair hair and orange skin.
But maybe, just maybe, this is how a modern-day president must appear to fellow politicians and the unwashed masses—just oily enough to give the appearance of a welcoming sheen for fellow narcissists and nincompoops to see themselves in the Donald, yet still slippery enough to evade anyone from pinning him down.
Whether it’s Marco Rubio, John Kasich, or Scott Walker, Trump claims he “likes” the people he has demeaned in hysterical ways throughout the course of his campaign. No wonder Trump does so well in this new era where social media reigns supreme. As that rude boy dandy Milo Yiannopoulos would say, “Daddy” Trump is the ultimate troll, “liking” while demeaning his “friends” and “followers.”
The interesting thing about trolling is that it is fundamentally a public pose directed towards others. Trolling is attention seeking. A troll cannot exist without an audience to shock. A troll without “the other” is no troll at all. Trolling is not about being an aloof, inner-directed, creative individual; it is about shocking the sensibilities of others and causing surprise in one’s opposition for the sake of fame, notoriety, envy, and disdain. A troll is a leech who sucks his life blood from the host of prevailing public sentiment. Trolls should not be confused with those great individualists who happen to upset public opinion and stand against the march of the herd. Trolls live for the minds of others. Individualists live for themselves.
With this in mind, the most lulz-worthy moment of Trump’s hour-long sit-down with Kirsten Powers is when Trump declares himself a fan of Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead:
Trump described himself as an Ayn Rand fan. He said of her novel The Fountainhead, “It relates to business (and) beauty (and) life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything.” He identified with Howard Roark, the novel’s idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.
When I pointed out that The Fountainhead is in a way about the tyranny of groupthink, Trump sat up and said, “That’s what is happening here.” He then recounted a call he received from a liberal journalist: “How does it feel to have done what you have done? I said what have I done. He said nobody ever in the history of this country has done what you have done. And I said, well, if I lose, then no big deal. And he said no, no, if you lose, it doesn’t matter because this will be talked about forever.”
“And I said it will be talked about more if I win.”
With this statement, Donald Trump is either trolling the brilliance of The Fountainhead or barely understands Howard Roark’s motivations. I venture it’s the latter.
Howard Roark does not simply design skyscrapers and rage against the establishment; Roark truly has his own vision of the world according to his own mind and principles, and he refuses to sacrifice his thoughtful vision—not even for money, power, or fame.
Howard Roark is no troll, and he would certainly not “pivot” for the sake of mollifying his enemies and serving as a symbol to the nation. No, Roark, as a true great individualist, does not wish to rile up collectives or compare his “greatness” to the “losers” in the establishment. As Roark tells Peter Keating, “I don’t make comparisons. I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything.”
So, Donald Trump, you are no Howard Roark—no matter what parallel you or Kirsten Powers wish to draw to one of Ayn Rand’s great protagonists. You constantly sell your name (if not your soul) for the sake of money and power. You constantly compare yourself to others. You incessantly play fast and loose with the truth. And as you have said while defending your political contributions to Democrats and Republicans alike, you know how to go along to get along.
Can anyone imagine Howard Roark behaving in such a way? Obviously not.
However, Mr. Trump, you do remind me of one of Roark’s contemporaries, Peter Keating. As Ayn Rand said of Peter Keating in her essay “The Nature of the Second-Hander”:
[Peter Keating is] paying the price and wondering for what sin and telling himself that he’s been too selfish. In what act or thought of his has there ever been a self? What was his aim in life? Greatness—in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy—all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn’t want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn’t want to build, but to be admired as a builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others. There’s your actual selflessness. It’s his ego that he’s betrayed and given up. But everybody calls him selfish . . .
Isn’t that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison.