There is one basic ideal that we Americans have heard over and again from so-called conservative intellectuals. That concept is the idea of people taking personal responsibility for their own lives. You will find that across the board all Republican politicians invoke the need for people to take personal responsibility for their own lives, rather than rely upon government assistance. Personal responsibility is the Republican justification for the entirety of all of their legislative objectives. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, considered the Republican intellectual leader in Congress, makes personal responsibility the lynch-pin of his crusade to give Americans more individual freedom. Not only is the Republican talking point personal responsibility propagandist nonsense, but it also reflects the deep seated hypocrisy concealing the ugly soul of American conservative philosophy.
The germ of the idea for need for people to take personal responsibility for their lives stems from the central American myth of rugged individualism which is defined below:
The belief that all individuals, or nearly all individuals, can succeed on their own and that government help for people should be minimal. The phrase is often associated with policies of the Republican party and was widely used by the Republican president Herbert Hoover. The phrase was later used in scorn by the Democratic presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman to refer to the disasters of Hoover’s administration, during which the stock market Crash of 1929 occurred and the Great Depression began.” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rugged+individualism
Central to American mythology is the idea of the “rugged individualist” as the driving force behind our country’s success. This myth holds that all of American progress came through the exertions of extraordinary men, going their own way, charting their own courses and bringing the rest of the populace along with them as followers of their iconoclastic natures. If you believe that our country’s success stems directly from the efforts of extraordinary individuals and not from the actions of a collective whole acting as our government, then it would follow logically that government’s work should be to free people to take personal responsibility for the entirety of their own lives. However, if the initial premise is based upon wishful mythology, rather than historical reality, then the entire premise is patently false.
The “rugged individualist” mythology uses the legends of Americans like Daniel Boone; Davy Crockett; Paul Bunyan; Alexander Graham Bell; Thomas Edison; Henry Ford; the Wright Brothers; and others as examples of how American progress was advanced by individuals, rather then the combined efforts of the collective whole. The historical reality for each of the above was quite different than their mythical exploits. Without the power of government protecting them and nurturing their efforts, they would be far less celebrated and their exploits far less powerful in creating an unreal mythology.
As an example take Henry Ford. “Although Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford.” American mythology about Ford would have one believe that single handedly, working out of his garage, Ford invented the automobile and envisioned an assembly line to produce it cheaply. The mythology of a nation can be very important in binding its people together, but it can be dangerous when it is taken to seriously by those who lead and by those who would use it in the service of their own selfish ends.
The American conservative movement’s political vehicle is the Republican Party. This Party, operating in recent years as the political arm of some of the wealthiest individuals, has built upon the mythological framework that rugged individualism created this country. From that they have developed the personal responsibility propaganda talking point to justify their slashing government programs instituted to benefit the majority of American citizens. Yet not only is their philosophy based upon monumental falsehoods, but it also reflects a blatant hypocrisy stemming from outright lying, or delusional self deception.
Paul Ryan, for instance has never held a significant job outside of government, yet crusades for less government so that people can take personal responsibility for their lives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also has never held a job outside of government, yet champions the idea of smaller government so that citizens can take personal responsibility for their lives. These men, whose careers involve living off of government, hypocritically spout about the need for people to be free of government interference in their lives and that people need to be personally responsible for their own actions. While these two Republican leaders careers avoiding taking personal responsibility is the rule, rather than the exception, for Republican politicians, the greatest example of a lack of personal responsibility comes from the person they support as President.
Trump has lived a lifetime avoiding taking personal responsibility for anything. He avoided the draft during Vietnam, with a phony medical issue. His first large business deal went bad and his father had to bail him out, though he later has re-framed it as a glorious success. He has started innumerable failed business ventures, but has used the bankruptcy laws to avoid responsibility and to profit off of others losses. His fame is based upon a biography that was ghost written and the ghostwriter has admitted that it was all false puffery, glorifying a disturbed person. He was the star of a reality TV show that was scripted to make him seem competent, but the truth was he had little input, or involvement in the show’s production. Most importantly though, as an indication of his hypocrisy, even his supporters agree that he will never admit to making any mistakes and always blames his failures on others. The truth is that the current leader of the Republican Party, is the greatest example of someone who never takes personal responsibility for anything, yet his party insists that the rest of us take personal responsibility for our own lives.
When you have a political party, in a representative Republic, acting as a wholly owned subsidiary of the wealthy classes, it is imperative that you gain electoral advantage by chicanery that hides the blatant hypocrisy of your motivations. The Republican Party uses the propaganda of a false mythology, to get people to vote for them and so far it is working, despite its blatant hypocrisy.