Paul Ryan Parts Ways with Ayn Rand

Let me say up front that I’m not a fan of Ayn Rand, although I did read and quite liked the Fountainhead when I was in my 20’s.  For the record, I was an English major, so I read a lot and I can assure that Ayn Rand is not required reading for English majors on most campuses.  When I was in college, I knew a lot of non-English majors who proudly avoided classes in which reading would be required, well, reading a novel anyway.  An engineer friend of mine said he’d never read a book in his life.  Others sparked noted their way through required college reading.  Not me – after books, albums were my number one priority which left no money for Cliff Notes.

I can tell you this, Paul Ryan did not read Ayn Rand’s “masterpiece” Atlas Shrugged.  At 1,088 pages, Paul Ryan would have started it as a young man and still be reading it, unless he had taken Evelyn Woods speed reading course.  And speed reading a novel, that’s just wrong.   I don’t begrudge Ryan or any politician for not having time or interest in reading.  President Kennedy confessed to never reading a novel, although he was a prolific reader of books on history.

If I were a reporter, I’d ask Ryan to name all the Ayn Rand books he has read and to give his takeaway from each.  And I would quiz him too.  For example, name the main character and his profession in the Fountainhead.  But I believe he would give a Sarah Palin like response and say that he had read “all of them” and that he would rather talk about the deficit or medicare vouchers.

Here’s the thing:  conservatives have championed Ayn Rand as their intellectual and ideological leader without having read her work and without knowing or understanding much about her philosophy on life.  If they knew some of her views, they would quickly distance themselves from her, as Paul Ryan now has.  It is a matter of public record that she was an atheist, ambivalent toward gun rights, had issues with the death penalty, and was pro-choice.  And she hated the National Review, the conservative periodical and was no fan of William F. Buckley.  In fact, she hated political parties!

The GOP likes Ayn Rand because she was a rugged individualist who believed in reason, meritocracy, unfettered capitalism and limited government.  This is of course no surprise coming from a Russian who lived her formative years in Stalinist Russia.  She was suspicious of faith, arguing that it limited thought and was antithetical to reason. Her social positions don’t square with the social conservative base of the GOP.  Ryan, who said he grew up reading Ayn Rand and credited her as one of his main influences who inspired him to enter politics, has finally rejected her philosophy.  My takeaway from this is 1) Ryan is not a very good reader and 2)  he felt the need to show that he too can flip-flop with the best of them.

Newt Took Page from Perry Playbook

Well, Newt stole a play out of Rick Perry’s old playbook.  He’s decided to publicly announce that he has a heart.  This play actually backfired on Rick P. Guv. Perry and along with those abysmal debate performances sent him from front runner status to bottom feeder.  Republican voters apparently really don’t like candidates who say anything remotely sympathetic toward immigrants.  Some leading Republicans have little respect or patience for people who need a helping hand out of poverty, disease, hunger or unemployment.  They idolize author, philosopher, capitalist and atheist, Ayn Rand, who argued through her characters that the playing field is level or neutral and that success is achieved not with support, but by talent and hard work alone.  Of course in politics, each side needs an enemy.  For Republicans, the enemies appear to be immigrants and the Occupy Movement; for Democrats, the Tea Party and the 1%.

Now Newt either does not really want to be the Republican nominee or he was strategically pandering to Latinos when he said he didn’t want to break “illegal” immigrant families apart and thought that there should be a way to give them legal status so that they can continue to live and work here.   Ok, so this sounds pretty progressive when coming from a neoconservative, but I’m reminded of a point that Ezra Klein made on Up With Chris Hayes this morning.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Newt made it clear that there would be no amnesty.  That instead of offering a green card, his position is tantamount to red carding. And as such, in my view, this is a way to legislate a permanent underclass who could never become an organized voting block and thus never pose a danger to the white right power structure.

Newt is a savvy politician.  He knows what he is doing.  He’s aligned himself squarely against the Occupy Movement, figuring there would be no votes for him there.  And he has come out in “support” of the undocumented, in hopes that Latino voters will fall for his tactics and vote for him over Obama who has actually done very little to advance a new immigration policy as promised.  There is just one flaw in this strategy.  He’s looking too far ahead.  It won’t get him the nomination.  The Republican base controlled by the Tea Party doesn’t want to hear any candidate say anything about the rights of people, particularly the rights of the undocumented.

No, Newt ought to be out there campaigning for the rights of corporations and the 1% who have been so unfairly stigmatized and abused that they’ve been forced to create jobs abroad to make untaxed profits.  As we know, the 1% aren’t really people, they are the chosen few, the elite job creators who we all owe are very existence to.  Newt’s star will fall, because he’s strayed too far from the Republican playbook.  And Mitt’ll be back on top before you know it. One thing Mitt has not flipped flopped on has been his anti-immigrant stance.  It’s going to be an Obama vs. Romney duel in the general election.  But it won’t be about immigration, wealth inequality, or taxes.  It’ll be about “what have you done for me” lately.  The politics of me, unfortunately.  And it’ll come down to voter turnout between the haves and the have nots.