Philosopher Isaiah Berlin first wrote about the fox and the hedgehog as a way to distinguish two different kinds of thinkers. More recently, former house speaker Newt Gingrich used the phrase to describe the presidential election. But what does it mean? Who’s the fox and who’s the hedgehog?
Berlin described the hedgehog as one who sees everything through one lens or one point of view, while the fox generates a viewpoint from many different experiences and believes the world can’t be put into one box. The labels of the two different philosopher types can be broken down to the defensive nature of both the fox and the hedgehog. Hedgehogs have only one form of defense – to curl into a ball and stick their sharp spikes out. Foxes have multiple ways of defending themselves. They are known for being sly and tricky.
In a tweet on Sept. 25, just one day before the presidential debate, Gingrich, an avid Donald Trump supporter, labeled Hillary Clinton the fox and Trump the hedgehog. The hedgehog takes U.S.’s social, economical and international issues and places them in one category. In the tweet Gingrich states Trump is the hedgehog because he knows one important thing: we need change.
His campaign cry, “Make America Great Again,” does seem to be his one view, and all of the items on his agenda centralize around that theme. Building a wall, protecting gun owners’ rights, bringing business back to the U.S. are all ways that Trump said he can put the U.S. back on top. While I’m sure most Americans can agree Donald Trump is right about a need for change, is Trump’s one plan for change a plan every American can get behind?
The fox, on the other hand, takes a variety of past experiences and creates a viewpoint based on how things have succeeded and failed in the past. It believes that the world’s problems can’t be solved with a narrow solution. It takes the diversity of the nation into consideration and look the issues from several different viewpoints. Hillary Clinton has a lot of political experience and is supported by Americans from diverse backgrounds. She doesn’t capitalize on one theme, rather she expresses all of America’s issues through the viewpoints of many.
Clinton calls herself the voice for the middle and lower class, the voice for immigrants and the voice for the young people. She uses examples from her past experiences as a first lady, senator and secretary of state to explain how she will handle issues as president. Clinton fits the description of the fox in many ways, including being sly and tricky. America is still deciding whether or not she is trustworthy.
In a socially divided, economically deprived U.S. that is and under attack from overseas terrorist forces, the question of what type of commander in chief we want for the next four years becomes increasingly important. Looking at the two candidates from the prospective of Berlin is one way you can make a more informed decision. Who would make a better president, the fox or the hedgehog?