South Dakota hard-right blog P&R Miscellany responds to left-wing cries (including my own) for right-wing consistency with this defense of Paul Ryan (recycling this National Review spin from April 2012) from charges of fealty to the atheist Ayn Rand. The Displaced Plainsman catches P&R trying to hide from the real issue. The problem, says LK, is not that Ryan is an atheist (no one says he is, and it's certainly not in my interest to encourage voters to reject a candidate because he's an atheist); the problem is that Ryan bases his worldview and his policies on Ayn Rand's philosophy. Yes, Ayn Rand was an atheist, but much, much worse, Rand preached a "relentless, single-minded dedication to one's passions" that flies in the face of community and Christianity.

I find P&R's Ryan apologetics worthy of some line-by-line. First, P&R tries to get Ryan out from under the onus of Rand fanaticism:

To be sure, Ryan finds some of Rand's moral arguments for capitalism and individualism as opposed to collectivism quite helpful and has said so. He did say that he "tried to make my interns read [Atlas Shrugged]." While I'm personally with the interns who did not read it (Rand is, in my opinion, largely unreadable, tendentious, boring, and worse), this is a far different thing than adopting wholesale Rand's objectivism. As this Politico piece makes clear, even when he was doing that he was not endorsing objectivism or atheism but individualism and capitalism as morally defensible [P&R, "Ryan and Rand: Not So Close as Charged," P&R Miscellany, August 12, 2012].

P&R recognizes, as made clear in his own subsequent comment, as made clear by Ryan's own recent spin, that conservatives must keep Rand from becoming the issue. But Rand is the issue. The clearest proof of Ryan's fealty to Rand is Ryan's own words to a 2005 meeting of the Atlas Society, an Ayn Rand fan club:

I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There's a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well [Paul Ryan, address to Atlas Society, 2005].

Ryan acknowledges that Rand's books played a significant role in forming his value system. He acknowledges that he required his interns and staff to read Rand's two biggest books. He is deep enough into Rand that he knows the internal debate among Randians about which novel new recruits ought to read first.

Ryan also told the Atlas Society that he consulted Rand's writings religiously:

It's so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand's vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d'Anconia's speech (at Bill Taggart's wedding) on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I'm believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism... [Ryan, 2005].

Ryan knows Rand's characters and parables. He treats her novels like Scripture, "checking his premises" for consistency with Rand's words. Ryan's knowledge of Rand is no casual acquaintance with a pop culture figure. It's serious attention. By his own words, Ryan is a Randian.

P&R admits Rand's philosophy is "immoral." To preserve his conviction that the Ryan-Romney ticket deserves his support, P&R must toss principle in favor of "anyone but Obama"-ism:

But a lot of Republicans are Christians and Protestants. If the left can destroy Ryan by tarring him as an atheist in the same way that they keep reminding us of Romney's Mormonism, then they can demotivate the GOP base. This will help to preserve Obama, including his attacks on religious freedom, his raw assertions of executive power, his devastating economic policies, and all the rest.

Frankly, I wouldn't care if Ryan were an atheist. Such irreligion would still be preferred to Obama's religious infatuation with government and the fiscal bankruptcy to which it is driving us. None of the candidates for president and vice president share my religious beliefs. There are two Catholics (both vice-presidential candidates), one Mormon, and one Black Liberation/Christo-Marxist (Obama). Religiously, I think they're all wrong [P&R, August 12, 2012].

A Christian conservative admits he'd rather have an atheist in office than the clearly Christian Barack Obama. Wowza! I guess all that talk about how the Founding Fathers created a Christian nation and said we couldn't govern without Christian principles really is just campaign chatter. We're making progress here!

As P&R throws religion out the window, he begs us to prioritize other values:

But Ryan and Romney are right on the economics, right on their appraisal of human nature, right on their understanding of how business and government work, right on the public morality they wish to uphold and defend, right on the limited nature of government and the U.S. Constitution... [P&R, August 12, 2012].

P&R is in la-la-land on the specifics. Ryan-Romney preach trickle-down economics disproven by the Bush tax cuts. Their every-man-for-himself thinking pales as public morality compared to President Obama's understanding that we have obligations to each other within community. And no one is preaching limited government; Romney and Ryan just want government to interfere in different realms (ask anyone with a uterus). But in general, I can get on board with P&R's declaration that the church you go to matters much, much less (if at all!) than other principles that guide one's public policies.

P&R then makes clear the ability of the right wing (of all humanity, really) to will itself to the outcomes it preconceives:

I'm not voting for pope or pastor. I'm not voting for God, either. I'm voting for president and vice-president and nothing Ryan has said that I'm aware of dampens my enthusiasm for him in the least [P&R, August 12, 2012].

In other words, Paul Ryan can cite a radical atheist egoist as the basis of his policy making, can indoctrinate other people in that egoist's bad literature, can even get his own Catholic theology grossly wrong, and good conservatives will still line up and vote for him.

Fine. As I said to Taunia last night, I don't like fighting a religious war. You can't win. But P&R and the Right's "anyone but Obama" rationalizations make me willing to fight the religious war with the objective not of victory but of cease-fire. I will accept the argument P&R makes, that we aren't voting for God, pope, or pastor. I will accept his argument that it doesn't matter what religion a candidate professes or shuns.

But I offer the cease-fire on two conditions:

  1. No Republican ever again mentions Jeremiah Wright.
  2. No Republican may say, insinuate, or countenance without rebuttal accusations that Barack Obama is a Muslim (not that there'd be anything wrong with his being a Muslim, but we're talking truth here).

If Republicans accept that cease fire, then we will have made immense progress to talking real, practical issues.

If they don't accept that cease fire, then the GOP will crush itself with the Romney-Ryan, Mormon-Rand ticket.