Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged has been among Amazon's top 20 bestsellers for much of the past year. This year she's outsold the Rev. Billy Graham, the Rev. Joel Osteen, and the Rev. Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life combined! There's even a new Atlas Shrugged movie playing in 300 American theaters. But that's not why Democrats should be boning up on their Rand...in fact, don't waste your time with her books. Democrats should be reading what Ayn Rand has said and taught her followers.
Why? Well, for starters, as the famous general Sun Tzu said, "Know your enemy." Ayn Rand's disciples are filling the halls of power in D.C. as the Tea Party rises in the GOP ranks. Sen. Ron Johnson said Atlas Shrugged was his "foundational book." Sen. Rand Paul is not surprisingly "a fan," and Limbaugh called her "brilliant." Fox and Friends declared her movie, which Boehner watched in a private screening with Andrew Breitbart, a "victory for capitalism." Even Sp. Ct. Justice Thomas broke his vow of silence to say he "tends to be really partial to Ayn Rand." [click here for all cites].
But perhaps her greatest acolyte is Rep. Paul Ryan -- the Republican choice to address the nation following the State of the Union and author of the Republican budget -- who credits Ayn Rand as the reason he got into politics, and he requires all his staff and interns to read her books.
Rep. Ryan has a Facebook video where he says:
Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism...it is the morality of what is going on right now and how it offends the morality of individuals working toward their own free will...It's that kind of thinking, that kind of writing that is sorely needed right now.
So what is that kind of morality? Let's hear how Ayn Rand defined it in an interview with Mike Wallace:
Ayn Rand: "I am the creator of a new code of morality... a morality not based on faith."
Rand: "It must be either reason or faith... I am against God."
Danger Will Robinson!
Mike Wallace: "You are out to destroy almost every edifice of the contemporary American way of life, our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, our rule by majority will. Other reviews have said you scorn churches and the concept of God. Are these accurate criticisms?"
Abort... Abort... Abort!!!
I wonder how most of rural America and the religious right base of the GOP might react to such "morality"? And I'm just scratching the surface here. Now do you see why Democrats should be reading Rand?
Ayn Rand has PLENTY to say against faith, majority rule, and love of neighbors that will send folks running for the hills in most of Red America. It's almost too easy. So let's try something a little more extreme. I wonder how her "morality" and "kind of thinking we so sorely need right now" might view the character and actions of serial killer, William Hickman, who was executed for raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl?
[William Hickman's trial] is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul... A strong man can eventually trample society under his feet. He was not strong enough. But is that his crime? That he was not able to serve, when he felt worthy to rule; to obey, when he wanted to command? He was superior and he wanted to live as such - and his is the one thing society does not permit.
I'm not making this stuff up. And I don't think I'm overstating the point to say this could be a complete game-changer if we can get enough attention focused on what this patron saint of the Tea Party and author being praised by Fox and GOP leaders really believed and taught her followers.
As I have been arguing for over a year, the Tea Party and religious right should be at each other's throats. One of the main reasons they are not is because we keep treating them as the same entity instead of driving the wedges in that would split them apart.
Rand's total rejection not only of faith and God but of everything Jesus stood for is anathema to Christians, and especially to more conservative and evangelical Christians. Forcing this discussion and calling GOP leaders who praise her on what she actually taught would sow deep discord in GOP circles because the Tea Party libertarians will defend her, which will be impossible for the Christian right to stomach.
But almost as important, the Rand connection lifts the veil on GOP motives and creates a narrative for their actions and budget priorities that most Americans -- regardless of their faith -- will rightly find appalling. It helps explain the GOP rush to default on the debt as well (Rand taught that any U.S. interference in the economy was dangerous and it was better to destroy structures than allow broken ones to continue). We have their leaders on record saying she is their inspiration and a great thinker and moralist. If we help Americans understand Rand, they will have a narrative and the WHY that explains the GOP actions.
If Americans understood Rand and her influence on Paul Ryan, think of how much harder it would be for the GOP to defend their budget priorities in the heartland. Rand shows the true motivation behind what the GOP budget is about. She allows us to move from an argument over policy to a more fundamental debate about who we want to be as a nation. With Rand exposed and hanging around the GOP necks, that is an argument we can't lose.
Sure, some GOP leaders will try to say that their ongoing praise of Rand wasn't for all the stuff she really believed and claimed was the goal of her books... they'll say they are good Christians and just liked some of her ideas but clearly don't agree with her on this other stuff. And if we're smart we'll say that excuse is just as hollow as a politician who'd go around praising Hitler as a great teacher and inspiration and then try to come back and say, "Well, of course I wasn't talking about the whole genocide/fascist/warmongering part... I've just always thought his prioritization of education and the need for society to invest in its children were really important, and that's why I make all my interns read Mein Kampf"!
Folks, let's spread the word. Eleison and American Values Network teamed up to create a powerful memo of some of Ayn Rand's most disturbing statements and quotes by GOP leaders praising her. Post it on Facebook. Send it to your friends. We need to spread the word in progressive circles and into the broader community. This is a game changer. Your voice -- not Ayn Rand's -- is what is sorely needed right now.
Follow Eric Sapp on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@SappEric