Ayn Rand and the Right’s Moment of Truth

ayn jesusIn a race as tight as this one, the Democrats would be fools not to start courting the evangelical vote. The polls show that most Americans have taken sides already, that there are not a lot of persuadable voters, and that the election will be won or lost based on who can best activate their base, a competition the President is clearly losing. This year, the Republicans have handed him the tools he needs to go after one of the most reliable components of its base, if not to actually win them over, then at the very least to suppress them, or very likely persuade them to go for a third party candidate.

I’m not talking about their having nominated a candidate from a church that asserts Christ was a prophet (and not God in the flesh) and that the Holy Bible has inaccuracies that needed to be corrected by Joseph Smith. Not that attacking their candidate for that would show any less class than the “John Kerry wants to ban the Bible” statements or any of the other tactics they’ve used on this demographic for decades. Heck, if Romney were a Democrat, such a talking point wouldn’t even have to have to be true before it were used against him. If his middle name were “Brigham”, his mother’s maiden name “Young”, and his father born in Utah, that would surely suffice as conclusive proof that he was “secretly” a Mormon.

What I’m talking about is the selection of the running mate whose past remarks make it impossible for them to hide how little connection there is between the crony capitalism they openly embrace and the Christian philosophy they pretend to. When Laurence O’Donnell asked his viewers to imagine what would be happening right now if Obama were on record as publicly claiming that his truest inspiration came from a Russian atheist, he clearly appreciates the irony, but I don’t think he fully understands its political potential.

For years the aforementioned despicable tactics have been used to persuade all those who love God that they must vote against their economic self-interest in order to show it. And what is truly regrettable about it is how many liberals seem to have bought into the propaganda that Jesus is a right-winger, and chosen to respond by making all Christians the enemy. I can’t say I blame them, but this is exactly what the Religious Right wants them to do.

Voltaire used to have a very simple answer for why he chose to reject Christianity: “Christians”. The Religious Right has certainly done a better job in illustrating this concept than just about any other unchristian behavior I can think of, and it has regrettably led to the situation where even liberals who catch on to their hypocrisies can’t use them to their best advantage in trying to win back Christian voters. Today we have liberals like O’Donnell, where the best they can do is to make Republicans look bad by showing their blatantly unchristian beliefs as simply another “guilt by association” akin to what the right has done with the President’s middle name, and showing the right that we liberals can give as good as we can get.

But as a progressive who also happens to be a Christian that loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all of his heart, I can attest to the fact that Ayn Rand’s philosophy is so much more than simply the usual kind of embarrassing dirt that politicians on both sides like to dig up from their opponents’ past to make them look bad. It is something that the right has tried to suppress for years, and is now right out in the open, which completely undermines any credibility they have ever been able to claim in campaigning as the christianer-than-thou party.

The fact that the right has now been caught red-handed with the evidence that the source of their extremist “Laisssez Faire” philosophy is not Jesus, not the Founding Fathers, but Ayn Rand undermines far more than their perennial claim that this is the philosophy that you not only may believe and still be a Christian, but what you must believe in order to be a Christian. Rand was not simply a radical devotee of an extremist version of capitalism, who also happened to be an atheist. Ayn Rand’s atheism was at the very heart of all that she believed, and to anyone who truly understands these beliefs, you cannot truly subscribe to them unless you are an atheist.

During her lifetime, Rand defiantly resisted the work of any and all conservatives who tried to justify their economic philosophies on the basis of right and wrong (in case you’re wondering… they can’t be) or to show that giving the top one percent whatever they want will ultimately trickle down to the rest of us (I’ll end the suspense… it won’t). She reacted violently to Milton Friedman’s book that attempted to show the harmful effects rent control has on the very people it is intended to help. Whether or not she agreed with this analysis, I don’t know, but it is beside the point. For Rand, the issue of whether or not the liberal policy achieved the intended result for the good of society was perverting the issue. If a policy of the government, like rent control, compels a wealthy capitalist to do anything he or she does not wish to do, then that’s all you need to know to conclude that such a policy is evil.

The reasons for this conclusion are clear. Whatever justification one might have for suggesting any limits on what a capitalist is allowed to do (from employing child labor, to segregating his lunch counter, etc…) is going to be based on a general feeling that the behavior to be outlawed is wrong. One could offer a conservative counterargument that it is not, but from Rand’s perspective it is a waste of time to debate right and wrong, because there is no morality outside of pursuing one’s own economic self-interest. Moral relativism is the attitude adopted by all those who believe there is no absolute standard of right and wrong, and that there is no absolute standard of right and wrong because there is no God to establish this standard.

True, this is the same logic by which many come to adopt the “liberal” position on social issues. Moral relativism, and the conviction that there is no God setting standards of right and wrong can certainly be a strong force in convincing someone to reject any arguments that abortion or same-sex marriage should be outlawed because they are sins. But that is very seldom the line of argument you will hear a liberal make when arguing the other side. Without attempting to debate the merits of these arguments here, almost all liberals who support legalized abortions and marriage equality base their arguments on the same thing the other side basis theirs: the conviction that their side is morally right, and the opposition’s is morally wrong.

The same cannot be said of the libertarian conservatives when you ask them to give their reasons for why they hold the “liberal” position on these issues. What was Clint Eastwood’s explanation for why he didn’t want either of these two things to be illegal? “I don’t give a f_____!” The right is currently at a crossroads, in which they must attempt to reconcile this kind of conservative, who knows that his economic philosophy has no basis in morality, and the kind who has been duped into believing this philosophy is, in fact, the highest form of morality.

At this crossroads, the glue that is holding these two segments of conservative coalition is weakening, and it is not just Eastwood who is showing it. Progressives express bewilderment to hear certain things, such as the fact that one of the Koch brothers has expressed support for marriage equality. But it should come as no surprise to those who understand “I don’t give a f___” to be the true essence of the right’s philosophy. Not giving a f___ about any moral issue was why Barry Goldwater was pro-choice, and condemned his party for abandoning that libertarian position in the 1980s.

To say, as Goldwater did, that you do not condone discrimination, but will never tolerate the government interfering with a restaurateur’s right to run his business how he sees fit, then no- you aren’t saying you support discrimination. You’re saying you don’t give a f___ about this evil. To say, as Goldwater’s disciples say today, that you do not think it’s acceptable for children to die because their parents’ health plan doesn’t cover them, but that you’ll never tolerate government interference with healthcare, then no- you aren’t saying that you want innocent people to die. You’re saying that you don’t give a f___ if they do. As much as it bothered him when his chief disciple, who had signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country as CA governor, later did a 180 on this, Reagan’s winning campaign seemed to understand something Goldwater’s losing one didn’t: that “I don’t give a f___” doesn’t resonate with voters quite the same as do the words of the last good President their party produced: “To remain neutral in the face of evil is to serve evil”. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Simply finding a different evil to rail at in lieu of real injustices has been successful for a long time in painting over the fact that their true ideology is rooted in a moral relativism that not only has no basis in the Christianity they claim to be the true protectors of, but is actively hostile towards it. But the paint is starting to chip away from this façade. With all the successes they have had, it is only natural that the adherents of the atheism their ideology is actually rooted in, empowered by these many successes, are coming out of the woodwork, not knowing when to keep their mouths shut about what they really believe.

As the Republican Party finds it harder and harder to silence these voices, America is at a moment of truth where we, the people must force them to choose who their real leader is: Jesus Christ, or Ayn Rand. It is a moment when Christian churches throughout the nation must make the same decision. In an election as close this one is going to be, Romney cannot win unless he gets the same overwhelming support from evangelical voters that winning candidates of his party have always depended on.

This will depend on Christian churches throughout the nation spending the next two months admonishing their followers that it is their Christian duty to vote for an openly atheist philosophy. If they are allowed to do this, it will not just be our democracy that is made a mockery of for the umpteenth time. It will be the Lord, our God.

Mark Bowen

Posted: Monday, 3 September 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on September 3, 2012
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...