In his June 15 column in the New York Times, David Brooks laments the corrupting influence of Donald Trump on American politics and culture. He says:

Donald Trump, by his mere presence, is an assault on [my] worldview. Trump is a tyrant. As Aristotle observed all those many years ago, tyranny is all about arbitrariness. When a tyrant has power, there is no rule of law, there is no governing order. There is only the whim of the tyrant. There is only his inordinate desire to have more than his fair share of everything.

Under political tyranny external laws become arbitrary. Even when Trump doesn’t wield state power, when he is merely campaigning, Trump wields cultural power. Under cultural tyranny internal values become arbitrary too — based on his whims and lusts of the moment.

The categories we use to evaluate the world lose their meaning — cruelty and kindness, integrity and corruption, honesty and dishonesty, generosity and selfishness. High-minded values begin to seem credulous and absurd, irrelevant to the situation at hand. Trump’s mere presence spreads his counter-gospel: People are basically selfish; raw power runs the world. All that matters is winning and losing. Under his influence, subtly and insidiously, people develop more nihilistic mind-sets….

Over the coming months, we face not merely a political contest, but a battle between those of us who believe in ideals, even though it can make us seem naïve at times, and those who argue that life is a remorseless struggle for selfish gain. Their victory would be a step toward cultural barbarism.


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