The Alarming Revival of Ayn Rand: The Right's Weirdest Idol of Them All
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The Republican Party’s slapstick search for a leader would be heartwarming and sidesplitting, but for the tragic knowledge that one of these scrambling midgets will collect tens of millions of votes in the presidential election of 2012. Never have so many amounted to so little, talked so much rubbish, dreamed of an office so far above their abilities. Blood pressures rose among party elders when Donald Trump, marginally Republican and one of the greatest fools in the solar system, momentarily tossed his hairpiece into the ring and became the instant favorite.
The GOP dilemma — a golden opportunity to rule but nothing to say and no one to say it — is so desperate that my instinct is to help them sort it out. Could we make a start, at least, by dismissing candidates who called for President Obama’s birth certificate or raised the specter of Sharia law in America, followed briskly off the stage by lunatics who dismiss global warming as a socialist plot?
That would leave plenty of unbalanced extremists still in the running, yet reduce the stench of sheer evil and madness. The “birther” and Sharia cults reek of cheesy talk-radio racism; climate-change denial is a stranger faith yet, a political assault on basic science that insults a ground squirrel’s intelligence and casually threatens the survival of life on earth.
The party that produces birthers and global-warming deniers no doubt harbors End-of-the-Worlders, too, Christians who packed their bags for heaven with the senile prophet Harold Camping on May 21. Though none of them, I suppose, would commit to the time and expense of a presidential campaign just to preside over a nation of sinners expiring in fire and pestilence. Leo Rangell, the prominent Freudian analyst whose obituary is in this morning’s Times, once lamented that the American public is “gullible or easily seduced, and susceptible to leaders of questionable character.”
Dr. Rangell wrote that in 1980, long before gullibility became such an epidemic that we began to doubt the value of our schools, before media demagogues made a billion-dollar industry of manipulating our most credulous citizens, before the Republican Party dedicated itself to gathering most of them into its fold. Before Rush Limbaugh, before Fox News, before the Tea Party.
“Finally, people’s stupidity will break your heart,” observed my father, a small-town politician and a loyal Republican of the moderate traditional strain that has been systematically exterminated by the radical Right.
My father lived long enough to vote for George McGovern and against Ronald Reagan, but the rhetoric GOP candidates churn out to charm this Tea Party would sound extraterrestrial to most Republicans of his generation.
The odious hypocrite Newt Gingrich, who considered himself a serious presidential candidate until his entire staff abandoned him in disgust, rests his appeal on his intellectual superiority to Sarah Palin and Rick Perry — a distinction much like being a faster runner than Dom DeLuise. In his obligatory pre-campaign book Gingrich claims that Barack Obama, a cautious centrist if there ever was one, drives a “secular-socialist machine” that “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”
Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Father Coughlin, move over. Newt is just full of Shariah, among other things, and accuses Obama of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” a blatant pitch for the racist vote the Tea Party has re-energized. A colossal irony — demonstrating how hopelessly divided America has become — is that the radical philosopher Cornel West, a black Princeton professor, calls Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This is not helpful of Dr. West, nor even responsible. He and Newt Gingrich are equally useless if a calmer, more logical and coherent political culture is what we’re after. But if I had to say which of these two hostile portraits of our president is less preposterous, I’m sure I’d choose West’s. Virtually all the valid criticism of Barack Obama has come from the left.