What infamous voices promoted more absurd, baseless, now wholly discredited notions?
Before doomsday, ever-dishonest Trumpism, with its racist defiance towards a nation of immigrants, now full of “vermin” he will “cast out,” there was Joe McCarthy, Reagan, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and Goldwater. Before such ardent defenders of rampant Yankee individualism, the end of the Nineteenth Century sourced the core of so many subsequent fusillades against decent New Deal repairs of broken capitalism. Social Darwinists (SD) were reactionary partisans terrified by the persuasive, science-driven potency of Darwinism, exploding self-satisfied Victorian puffery.
The SDs pumped out reams of mock social science blather—which just happened to shamelessly defend the most malicious inequities of the abusive Robber Baron era. Well before Hollywood, SD made greed a good, vindicated white racism, colonialism, imperialism and delusions of white cultural grandeur. To their eventual mortification, Social Darwinists pushed the despicable “eugenics” of selective breeding by “superior beings” while impeding childbearing by “inferiors.” In short, rarely has entitled, fat cat elitism dished out more noxious tools geared to “improve” humanity and serve its insular idea of “progress” by purifying “blood lines.” Guess where that led—yes, the genocidal Nazi holocaust!
Social Darwinism was the rotten root feeding autocratic, anti-science, minority rule autocracy, on full display in right-wing Republican/Trumpist fascism. Just as complacent, “good Christians” then anointed the intact hierarchy of power, class, gender, and race, today’s true believers (rich and poor) are equally blind to how unchristian and anti-democratic is the Trumpist rampage. So, if you’re puzzled about what unifies the perverse Republican “worldview,” go no further than hokum from Social Darwinism. And its primary driver, anticipating today’s propaganda, was the calculated distortion of real-world knowledge – corrupting history’s greatest biological advance, revolutionary Darwinian models of evolution. As a result, Social Darwinism (virtually Reactionary Defenses of the Status Quo) spouted an amazing array of nonsense, adding its own dead ends to other major, suspect threats to democratic humanism, as in marxism, Freudianism, relativism, fascism, laissez faire capitalism and end-of-the-world religious delusions.
Propaganda vs. scientific evidence
In fact, “Social” Darwinism inverted genetically-driven Darwinism, then forced wrong conclusions far beyond the stated focus or relevance. Mistranslated hard science into moralistic political terms, SD seethed with religious fervor, justifying mind-boggling wealth (the spoils to “superior” winners), crude racism (awarding its “race” the right to global domination), cultural, religious and military imperialism (to “civilize” savages), gender discrimination (damping down the “weaker sex”), plus indefensible, state-approved selective breeding. As with farm animals, that’s how procreation by the “better class of people” offset degrading the human gene pool from offspring of “defectives,” whether physical or mental impairment, or with darker skin or the wrong “backward” birthplace. But Darwinism, despite profound ripples on slavery, colonialism, Biblical literalness, class structures and sex roles, was never a social theory, restricted to unraveling evolutionary species development via genetic mutations and subsequent “natural selection.”
By the mid-20th C, its cockamamie notions badly battered, SD’s prestige suffered a death blow after the Nazi peril hijacked its racist ideology. To justify organized, racist assaults, and its “Aryan, master race” bloodlines, Nazism co-opted SD and finished bashing its tattered standing. Well, until 40 years later when right-wingers resurrected similar, ruthless Frankenstein perversions. Today’s wrecking ball against time-tested, Constitutional protections renews the spirit of SD—its extreme chauvinistic arrogance that anoints the “best country in the world” as world ruler, its resistance to government, taxation and regulation (handcuffing “geniuses” responsible for economic “progress”) and its messianic, Christian crusade against “defective immigrants” who allegedly taint the besieged white, Protestant purity of a “Christian nation.”
Hijacking “survival of the fittest”
Though modern Darwinians have modified (and criticized) the 1857 theory of natural selection via genetic mutations, few major scientists dispute its general thesis that species changes over eons favored those with superior adaptive qualities, resolving resource and environmental challenges. Darwin’s evolution (vs. self-serving ideas of “progress”) never invoked “survival of the fittest,” an idea and phrase foreign to On the Origin of Species. Nor does Darwin invoke the reductionist that reduces all live to a pitched “struggle for existence,” blather SD paraded as universal truths. Transient hostility, invasions and war didn’t produce new species growth compared to biological shifts that favor group gene dynamics.
Darwin saw “fitness” as expanding the gene pool, not accumulating treasure or power. Whatever one’s apparent genius, the better adapted live long enough to produce more offspring. If SD hokum were right, children of world-shakers would match their parent’s advances, rarely the case. Even intellectually “superior” parents do not spawn similar brilliance, despite high status, money, motivation and education. Life is a crap shoot, over determined breeding an empty hoax.
Corrupt Trumpism re-gorges corrupt SD
What the modern right has done is renew a slew of discredited ideas on race, superiority and god-ordained domination. No conservative, Trump favors chaos and disruption, not continuity or “conserving tested, working institutions,” let alone lifting all boats. Trump personifies the SD perversion of the “survival of the fittest” (as boob hero) via unfettered (often destructive egotism) and dominance at any price (vs. made-up, inflated enemies). As a laughable, self-declared “stable genius” who knows more about everything than anyone else, Trump is never about helping the majority (only donors and allies) but whatever serves his grist as anointed savior (and moralistic SD was also about world redemption).
Trump’s self-appointed fate is not only to rule America with an iron fist but alliances with world autocrats so that a white, Christian, racist nationalism dominates world affairs. Militarism isn’t even about self-interest (consider Ukraine as drain on Russia) but holy (culture) wars, even genocide, so superior “races” displace the abused. That’s why Trump wants to cage immigrants (that’ll discourage the mobile buggers), even bomb Mexico to punish potential illegals at the source.
In this winner-take-all stratagem, Trump must pommel law, order and democratic majority rule because his minority is always right—and his opponents (and prosecutors) are always wrong. So down with certified elections when outcomes only shore up the weak, foreign and stupid. Down with outmoded Constitutional handcuffs on the few disruptive strongmen whose merciless ruthlessness best guarantees purer blood lines. Up with Ayn Rand absurdity and down with anyone left of Elon Musk. Back to golden days of true laissez faire economics; no mere (elected) government has the moral authority to restrain geniuses like Musk, libertarian billionaires, or blowhard Republicans (Trump, Johnson, McCarthy, Cruz, Turberville and donor/backers who keep them in charge).
Down with government safety nets (like health care, COVID relief or food stamps) – they fail miserably while subsidizing weak and lazy inferiors, even fund their tainted reproduction. Ditto, who needs government job training (never affirmative action) because GOP Social Darwinists not only welcome the “efficiency” of authoritarian control but total self-reliance, that progress depends on every “superior” (white, male) given the “freedom” that anything goes. After all, what stops impoverished, inner city youths from just working hard and mastering the right skills? For GOP SDs the world is an equal opportunity employer, discrimination a left-wing fiction, and everyone toes the same starting line. Thus, the rich and powerful, despite inheriting family money and education options, deserve their billions because they are better than poor people. Enough of this “alternative” reality confirms the poor lack the stuff to become Trumpian “winners.” GOPers are truly Banana Republicans.
Latest fascist push not even a decade old
True, today’s deranged GOP extremism is a manic response to billionaire domination and modern pressures, admittedly different from Social Darwinism born 150 years ago. Reliving where the first bout of Social Darwinism ended—the most militant, vicious cult of belligerence that led Germany to disrupt the world between 1933 and 1945. Trumpism, after all, is still three years short of its first decade—but like the NAZI quest for world power already imagines self-sanctified influences and impacts well beyond our borders.