Recently I have been pondering whether Donald Trump, in the parlance of philosopher Isaiah Berlin in his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox”, is a hedgehog, one who, in words of the Greek poet Archilochus, “knows one big thing,”or a fox, which knows many things. The thrust of the essay (and a later book) is that history teaches that the hedgehogs tend to prevail over the foxes.
In 2019, I announced that I had figured out that Trump was indeed a hedgehog, and that the one big thing he knew was that
“Despite decades of indoctrination to the contrary, most Americans are proud of their country and do not believe it has been a force for evil in the world. They recognize that capitalism has been responsible for the much of the nation’s success, and they do not want to emulate the European nanny states. Most Americans also regard the office of the Presidency as an inherently good institution. The Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, as the President now calls them, do not believe these things, and by clearly opposing a group that is deep, deep in negative territory on the scale, the President is certain to derive a net benefit. Although I have heard the Stage 5 Trump Deranged argue that he does not love his country and does not have its best interests at heart, that is an unsupportable position fueled by dislike alone. Nobody becomes President who isn’t a patriot, and no President wants to go down in history as a bad one. Now the entire Democratic Party is tying itself to these four repulsive, anti-American extremists, which is the equivalent of the party tying itself to an anchor on the [Cognitive Dissonance] Scale.”
For the record, I’m still not completely convinced that Trump isn’t a fox in spiny clothing.
Now the “Fox or Hedgehog?” game has emerged again in an essay by Lance Morrow in The Wall Street Journal. He attributes Critical Race Theory to hedgehogian reasoning. The One Big Thing: slavery was bad. He writes in part,
“Race is one of many big things in America. It is hardly the most important. Americans need to desanctify the subject of race—to mute its claims, which have grown absolutist and, as it were, theological in their thoroughness, their dogmatism….The hedgehog’s trajectory may begin on the side of undeniable and important truth—for example, the truth that slavery was a great wickedness in America (as it was elsewhere in the world), and that race prejudice has been a chronic American dilemma and a moral blight that has damaged and scarred the lives of millions of black American citizens over generations. But hedgehogs, who deal in absolutes, are liable to get carried away. Their truth changes shape as it coalesces into a political movement and gets a taste of power and begins to impose itself programmatically. Its ambitions swell, it grows messianic, it embraces civic idiocies (defund the police!) and beholds the astounding impunity with which it may run amok in the streets and burn police cars and shopping malls, as it did last summer, and the ease with which it may take over city councils and mayors’ offices and turn so many of the country’s normal arrangements upside down….The single-minded ideology of critical race theory sees racism in every white face—a racism systemic, pervasive, inescapable, damning. All white people are racists. The doctrine devolves to the crudest form of what might be called racial Calvinism: Americans are predestined—saved or damned, depending on the color of their skin. This doctrine merely reverses the theory of white supremacy, which damned black people—and consigned them to oppressive segregation—because of the color of their skin. So critical race theory, protesting the old injustice, embraces its lie. This is not progress but revenge. The motive is not justice but payback, lex talionis—an understandable, if Balkan, impulse. Beware a hedgehog claiming the immunities of an innocent victim. Beware when victimhood is his One Big Thing. The victim wants revenge, and who is more justified in committing any crime or injustice than a blameless victim acting in historic retaliation? Virtue, feeling vengeful and tasting power, grows manic—dogmatic, dangerous. Critical race theory ends by fostering the evil it professes to combat—racism and the hatred that comes with it. “Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return,” W.H. Auden wrote. The 20th century taught the lesson over and over again, but it seems to be wasted on the 21st.“
Read the whole big thing.
And they said Trump was a dangerous hedgehog…