Before Big Brother was synonymous with big, intrusive government, it was the name of the shadowy antagonist in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” The character, the leader of Oceania, is the origin for the term now in the political lexicon. “Nineteen Eighty Four” should probably be required reading in schools, though there is some sense of irony of the prophetic tale of government overreach finding its way into common core standards.
It would be good required reading because it would inform electoral decisions when there is discomfort with the status quo. There’s a tendency when trust in institutions declines to actually seek bigger government and invest faith in a strong leader. “Leadership” is not and shouldn’t be considered inherently wrong, but a desire for “leadership” as some mythical characteristic that is going to fix the malaise in this country is a misguided and dangerous notion. To think that the size, scope and role of government is fine, and government just needs a competent manager is not a belief fans of limited government should really have.
But that’s what supporters of the Republican front runner – the party that allegedly supports smaller government – are doing, and it’s a frightening prospect.
“Let’s do a pledge. Who likes me in this room?”Donald Trump said to a crowd this past weekend in Florida.
“Ok, I have never done this before. Can I have a pledge, a swearing? Raise your right hand. I do solemnly swear that I – no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever – will vote, on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president,” Trump said, and the Trumpeteers repeated.
“Now I know. Don’t forget you all raised your hands. You swore. Bad things happen if you don’t live up to what you just did.”
The crazy thing about becoming a dystopian society is that it’s not that crazy. Following the disaster of World War I and the hyper inflation that followed, Germany wanted a strong leader to fix its economic woes. It’s becoming somewhat commonplace to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler
. Trump’s strong nationalistic authoritarianism makes it easy, but rather than make a historical comparison that can be dismissed as hyperbole, it’s more effective – and true – to point that Trump’s cult of personality is that of Big Brother, the leader who is always watching you.
The blind faith of Big Brother in “1984” is strikingly similar to the blind faith Trump supporters have in their guy, even when he criticizes women, war heroes and the disabled. This is all chalked up to being against political correctness, just as his defense of single payer health care, war crimes and protectionism is defended as somehow being anti-establishment.
It’ll be a nightmare when Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter are in charge of the Ministry of Truth and the state run media. Duncan Hunter and Jeff Sessions will be in charge of the TrumpStopo Thought Police breaking into homes of anyone not eating Trump Steaks. Attorney General Chris Christie will be prosecuting dissenters of the administration and those who thought The Apprentice was just “meh.”
The problem with blind faith in Trump isn’t so much to do with him, though. A lot of it stems from a prevailing belief that politicians can fix our problems. Even when rhetoric seems to be anti-politician – which many Trump supporters would claim to profess – voters tend to just want to replace one politician over another. But no single man or woman is going to bring about change, and no voter should invest his or her faith in an individual person. Ideas move society, not politicians.
But it’s clear now that that belief is still strong, and it’s a belief that encourages an expansion of the state. It certainly seemed that the country wasn’t heading in this direction, that we weren’t turning back to 1984 but rather forward to a 2016 and beyond that valued a renewed belief in the Bill of Rights and individual freedom. The Tea Party movement, at least in terms of ideas, carried promise. Instead, the constitution and liberty are now buzzwords meant to promote the right’s own brand of statism.
In “1984,” the protagonist Winston Smith rebels against The Party by falling in love, a horrible crime because you’re supposed to only love Big Brother. The Ministry of Love enforces this loyalty and love of Big Brother through fear and manipulation. There is no telling what new department Trump might create that certainly would be “fantastic, terrific, beautiful.” But it is a sure bet that the blind faith in following Trump encourages a dramatic growth in the size and scope of the state.
It’s concerning that Republicans might eventually fall in line and be accomplices to Trump’s version of Oceania (or Trumpia) if he does become the nominee. More good, honest conservatives need to be like Winston Smith and rebel against The Party because the Party isn’t always right.
And with Big Brother as its front runner, the Republican Party surely isn’t right right now.