During the 2012 elections, several editorials and academic papers declared a rebirth of social Darwinism in candidates’ platforms. Today, I believe specific candidates have built on that rebirth and utilized a brand of neo-social Darwinism as their platform. Donald Trump stands out as the chief social Darwinist of the 2016 elections.
But first, some background on the social Darwinist movement of the late 19th century. The 1870’s marked the beginning of social Darwinism, a theory based on survival of the fittest, laissez faire doctrine, and the belief that only those best adapted to the environment would prevail. Pioneered by Herbert Spencer, men like William Graham Sumner and Andrew Carnegie carried the movement into industry and academics. It is important to note that this gospel of social Darwinism worked in the late 19th century, especially in the West.
To many, this seems like the American way; work hard and you are rewarded. But it is important to highlight the gross racial bias touted by this philosophy that cripples those that are not already ahead. Not only are minorities at a disadvantage within this framework, but anyone that does not accomplish success is chewed up and spit out by the machine.
And this leads us to the Trump. Donald Trump does not explicitly oppose opportunities for minorities in America, but his support of this new brand of social Darwinism handicaps those without a head start. Trump has capitalized on the long-standing financial social Darwinism of the Republican party and used it to catapult himself to the front of the ticket.
In many ways, Trump is a perfect fit for the social Darwinist culture. He is aggressive, wealthy, and utterly self-absorbed. He has capitalized so well on the Republican party’s incompetence that he’s become the party’s dominant candidate. And that’s the problem.
As the social Darwinism movement of the late 19th century demonstrated through abominable labor conditions and a monopolized economy, social Darwinism is not an equitable way to govern or manage a nation. The survival of the fittest does not sustain a nation as diverse as the United States of America.
This is the Trump conundrum. Can he formulate policy alternatives and approaches that will sustain this nation? Does he have substance beyond “Make America Great Again”? His slogan is heart-warming and captivating, but the question still lingers, “How will Donald Trump make America great again?”
Social Darwinism isn’t the answer. The survival of the fittest will always result in the trampling of the lesser and ill-equipped population. This predicament will be played out in the near future, and no matter one’s voting preference, one will likely be forced to confront Trump’s policies and their dogma.