The Republican Party’s presidential primaries and the Republican Party itself have become, besides stand-up comedy sudden death competitions, gladiatorial wet noodlefests over who has the purest, most undiluted, unapologetically reactionary and regressive conservative principles. The 2010 congressional primaries with their Tea Party repertory of witches, riflemen, Queens of the Rodeo and ideological missionaries, besides being a Marx Brothers movie with a cast of Minnie Pearls, offered Americans the oh so human metaphysical and existential dilemma of finding Absolute Right on the ideological thermometer and trying to get below it.
Some of the cuckoo clocks actually ended up in congress (Hi, Rand). But for a collection of people who preen with such fastidious braggadocio about principles they certainly do become shrinking violets when it comes to talking publicly about the intents and consequences of their very principled policy recommendations.
Paul Ryan for instance regards Atlas Shrugged as gospel, so much so his staffers are required to read it. And he admits the cult-beloved fantasist Ayn Rand remains his guiding star. His Ryan Plan could accurately be called the Objectivist Manifesto for the United States of America, over several decades evaporating government and all its evil away, nothing left but a Defense Department and a bulging dumpster. His mentor cockily referred to the masses, to ordinary workers, the non-wealthy, non-producers as moochers, parasites and looters in Atlas Shrugged, and advocated for a small elite class of producers ruling the great unwashed. Ryan doesn’t seem to possess his swami’s capacity for saying publicly what in her mind and presumably his, is the unvarnished truth. Yes, she was an intellectual guru and he is a mere politician, but if the principles are so pristinely brutal (which is the appeal of Rand to the hierarchical conservative brain) wouldn’t they deserve, even demand to be said aloud?
While Ryan’s plan allocates all of the ever flowing tax relief, and as much of GDP as the already wealthy and powerful can help themselves to, he doesn’t possess the testicular fortitude to tell you so explicitly, to tell you this is how the world is supposed to divide up, according to his principles; nor that the producers, the one percent are the only beneficiaries of this grand vision. The avatar of principled conservatism wants to wipe away the safety net, purify the world of awful dependency, yet promotes his epic vision only with mealy-mouthed talk of reform and weasel words about saving the safety net. Why does principled conservatism always have to hide behind Orwellian doublespeak?
Mr. Principles doesn’t mention anything about the extraordinary levels of elderly poverty and child poverty that afflicted the nation prior to implementation of Social Security and Medicare and Great Society government aid, and also certain to return, and with even more of a vengeance in the utopia of unbridled jungle capitalism he envisions and elevates. What’s so principled about failing to acknowledge the levels of elderly poverty and poverty across the demographics prior to the evolving of an effective safety net? What is so principled about simply pretending none of this is even worth a mention when magisterially banishing the American safety net, or about pretending none of this will be a compelling national dilemma again, in fact virtually a plague of new hardship and renewed suffering in the social Darwinist paradise of de-facto feudalism?
In many ways the new Republican ultra-conservatism is a machinery built for turning millions of Americans into human garbage, those seen as simply too witless or lacking avariciousness to become wealthy and powerful matter-of-factly disposable, hence relegated to spotty healthcare and struggle instead of security: rather than a prosperous middle-class, an undignified class of drones. How many times does a Republican governor and legislator have to go after the quality of life of teachers, cops and government workers before it is clear even without any Republican principled boldness or honesty that these are considered Americans who belong, according to this vision, among the lesser class: moochers, parasites and looters, too lame to become wealthy, born to serve the elites. If your heart directs you to teach kids or fight fires or direct church choirs or cook in a local restaurant you lack the virtue required to be healthy, safe or comfortable in our newly privatized world.
If conservatism is so grounded in principle, why cannot its politicians whose attitudes regarding for instance health care favor the status quo, one that by its very nature restricts access and which is entirely synchronous with the interests of health insurance companies, simply tell us it is the health insurance companies who are their priority, whose interests are important to them, rather than rain down a lot of laughable blather about how patriotically sacrosanct the private health insurance system in America is? Where’s the courage of those principles? When a debate moderator asked Ron Paul if a theoretical uninsured thirty year old in need of medical intervention to save his life after an auto accident should simply be left to die, those real conservatives in the Republican base shouted: YES. Republican politicians rather pathetically fail at summoning the courage of the base’s convictions.
The private education which is the conservative replacement for those awful public schools, as with all things private is reserved for those able to pay the price of admittance. That’s an awful lot of American children left for educational dead. Throw them in the dumpster along with a vibrant middle class, modern infrastructure and all the rest present in other modern democracies after government has been reduced to the size it can be drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub. It’s bold thinking, but the proponents are not so bold about telling us what it’s really going to look like. It’s one thing to tout failed trickle-down economics and 18th century sized government in the 21st century for raw political reasons, it’s another to actually believe it. Either they actually believe it, or they lack the principled courage to tell it like it is.
Naturally, from a political standpoint viewing a sizeable contingent of your fellow Americans as contemptible is inherent in the vision, and so it would be fitting for those selling a glorious vision to contemptibly shine on those they view as unworthy of being owed the truth anyhow, snatching their votes with advertising tricks what the drones deserve. You don’t owe anything, much less truth to looters, moochers and parasites. Though this still strikes me as a little unprincipled, with my admittedly pedestrian moral thinking.
Of course, Ayn Rand herself did not have the courage of her convictions in the end either, learning the hard way why Social Security and Medicare are so integrally important to the old and sick and vulnerable, relying on them in old age though not so boldly drawing on them using her married name rather than her famous one. Utopian theory, even nasty utopian theory is one thing, reality is another. That’s why sane and intelligent and civilized peoples evolved the modern welfare state. And while quite obviously the safety net in the modern welfare state wasn’t manifested out of altruism but the overwhelming self interest of societies and their people, one is reminded that Rand once famously said, “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” Let’s see you sell that, Paul “Mr. Big Shot Principled Conservative” Ryan.