How about this as a fitting description of the current race to be the presidential nominee of the Tea Bag Republican Party:
“It would be hard to imagine a lower level of brazenly vicious absurdity that men could permit themselves to attempt. It [is] an attempt to institutionalize smears as an instrument of national policy – to raise those smears from the private gutters of yellow journalism to the public summit of a proposed inclusion in a political party platform.”
Ted Cruz sent out an “independent” team to post a picture of Donald Trump’s wife naked, on the internet. In this case, “independent” has the Citizens United meaning of ‘funded by people in close contact with the candidate, doing as the candidate wants done.’
Then Donald Trump posted a picture of what Ted Cruz’s (fully clothed) wife looks like during meetings at her regular day job as a Goldman Sachs “partner”/enforcer. Ted Cruz called Donald Trump’s post “sniveling cowardice”, completely unlike his bravery in denying his own involvement in the attack on Trump’s wife.
Does the quote, above, sound like it’s about the 2016 campaign? It isn’t. That quote was written in 1964, by Ayn Rand. Rand was attacking the Republican establishment for not kneeling and genuflecting before the sainted Barry Goldwater. That was the same Goldwater who said, at the presidential nominating convention:
“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice….Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Ayn Rand said of that phrase: “This…was the best passage in his remarkable speech.”
Rand’s remarkable 1964 essay on “Extremism, or the Art of Smearing” lays out the foundation of all modern corporate right wing thought.
Goldwater was concerned that ‘moderation,’ in the form of the Civil Rights Movement, was denying people the liberty to legally enforce segregation, and that ‘extremism’ was threatening corporate rights to the justice of having U.S. troops enforce their colonial control of Vietnam. Rand dismissed, out of hand, the concept that either the non-white citizens of the U.S. or the “yellow” citizens of Vietnam could possibly have either rights or any interest in justice.
Rand’s remarkable 1964 essay on “Extremism, or the Art of Smearing” lays out the foundation of all modern corporate right wing thought. She calls on “conservatives” to paint themselves as victims of the “vituperation” and “smears” and “abuse” of the “snarling faces and hysterical voices” who were unreasonably “denouncing purveyors of hate”. As well as telling her acolytes to style themselves as “victims”, whenever they face any criticism or even mere questions about their positions, Rand set out examples of two strategies which have come to define modern Tea Bag Republican Party corporate ‘argument.’
First was the strategy of claiming that what people meant was in conflict with what they had actually said. This allows corporatists to argue against what Rand wanted to argue against, rather than what others actually believed. Thus, rather than respond to criticisms of the open racism of the Republican Party and Goldwater in 1964, Rand argued that those who spoke against the “purveyors of hate” actually were attacking “capitalism”.
Second, Rand argued that it was necessary to provide new definitions for words and concepts when the common definitions people used were ‘wrong’ definitions. Perhaps her best new definition appears in the early paragraphs of the “Extremism” essay, when she complains that her critics (and those of her fans at the Republican Party convention) “kept the debate on the level of concretes,” rather than wandering off into ruminations about ethereal, mystical “concepts.” In essence, Rand was arguing that the police dogs and fire hoses, and the early news films from the steamy rice paddies, were irrelevant, and people should focus on the needs of “capitalists” to oppose “communism”.
She defined real life, the actual experiences of hoi polloi, as being at least irrelevant to consideration of political rulers, and positively damaging to the interests of those whom politicians should serve – “capitalists” in her words.
In her arguments, Rand repeatedly places quotation marks around sentences, ascribing them to unnamed persons she is attacking. But never providing any citation to support the “quotation”. We see the same tactic now fully adopted by every Tea Bag Republican Party spokesman and politician. And by people attacking Moslems, the Quran, Acorn, progressives, prison reform advocates, unions, and on and on.
Making up a quotation, and then attacking it and the fantasy person who ‘said it’ is much easier that dealing with what people actually say, or dealing with facts. Thus, reports of global warming, or of waves of unprecedented earthquakes in areas being “fracked” for dirty oil, or of women being hurt by closure of health clinics, are best dealt with by simply imagining that someone with better knowledge has said something pithy to deny reality.
Ayn Rand has become a saint to the fundagelical community. As the prosperity gospel teaches that Jesus was wrong in his economic and social teachings, Ayn Rand provides a “rational” basis for ignoring the Commandments found in the Bible (there are way more than just the famous 10).
But this creates a bit of incongruity. In her Extremism essay, Rand says:
“In the field of morality, compromise is surrender to evil.” And “It is also obvious that compromise is incompatible with morality.”
For “Christians” it is wrong to lie. Says so right there in the famous 10, and in other Commandments. Yet in pursuit of political power, as Ted Cruz daily makes clear, open, intentional lies are OK, even preferable to complex truths. This is simply an adoption of Ayn Rand’s practice of misstating the positions of people, and then arguing against the misstated position rather than the real position. But to say that this practice is immoral would be to “smear” and “abuse” with “vituperation.”
If we really accept Rand’s argument that “There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues” then we have to say that there can be no compromise on lying. Saying that all Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, or that all Moslems must be terrorists, or that all climate scientists are on the take is intentional lying. It is a compromise of basic principles and of morality—unless lying is one of your basic principles. Unless your morality puts narcissism and short term personal gain above all other concerns.
What Ayn Rand wrote in 1964, as a virulent, consciously dishonest rant against those of her own party who disagreed with Goldwater, has become the gospel of the Tea Bag Republican Party. House Speaker Paul Ryan (before he was reined in by his corporate controllers) spoke openly about his worship of Ayn Rand and her approach to politics. Every modern candidate for the Party toes the line, misstates his opponent’s positions, lies about minorities and Moslems, and claims to be the victim if anyone offers the truth, or a hard question at a press conference.
Tea Bag Republican politicians, particularly in “red” states, love to call for other people to take “personal responsibility” while wanting none of their own. But U.S. voters have shown in the past that they love to cheer for bloviating bigots, then repudiate them in favor of more practical candidates in the voting booth. Ayn Rand wrote the model for modern Tea Bag Republican Party practice in 1964. 52 years of policies increasingly focused on her hypocrisies and analytic phallusies have brought us to the contest between Trump and Cruz. For this we might be thankful.
The 1964 campaign results suggest good news. Both Trump and Cruz are trying to be today’s Goldwater. Goldwater positioned himself as a champion of racist, xenophobic, colonial war mongering. And he got crushed in the election.