How is elitist Ayn Rand a tea party hero? The contradiction should concern America.
Tea partiers praise Ayn Rand's 'pure capitalism.' But they ignore her oligarchic, elitist views – ideals that are fundamentally antiAmerican and deeply at odds with the tea party's own cause.
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It is even more strange that the tea partiers, with their religiosity, chose as their icon the author who did not miss any opportunity to mock Christianity and any other faith.Skip to next paragraph
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We have seen this kind of selective championing of an ideologue before. In the 1960s, Vladimir Lenin was considered by many Russian dissidents to be their ally in the fight for the liberalization of Soviet society, simply because they agreed with one single item in his ideological heritage: his relative tolerance of the differing views of his party comrades.
At the same time, these neo-Leninists ignored the fact that their icon was a constant foe of the free election process and of liberal freedoms, in addition to being the founder of the infamous Soviet Gulag.
Sneering at democracy
It is obvious for those who have genuinely read Rand’s novels and essays (as opposed to those who are merely formulating opinions of her from hearsay), that she and the tea party politicians have very nearly opposite views on the desired political system.
Certainly, the tea party movement does praise Ayn Rand-style capitalism, but it also passionately defends the fundamental principles of democracy as they were promulgated in the American Constitution – a fundamental point of departure from Rand.
In Rand’s most popular novels, “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” it is impossible to find any praise of the American Revolution or the American Constitution. In fact it is very easy to find many cases where she sneers at democracy and majority rule, as well as all democratic institutions: the election process, presidency, public opinion, media, and the judicial system.
In her book, “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” she directly mocks democracy in both the past and present periods, and disparages “the will of the people.” It is indeed true that Rand is disgusted with the state, a fact which makes the tea partiers erroneously think that Rand is their ally. But such praise of Rand is remarkable considering that the issue of taxes – at the crux of their movement – was addressed by Rand only in regard to big companies, and never as a concern for ordinary people.
Tea party contradictions
Even if its anti-elitist fervor can be useful for American democracy, at this point in time, the narrative of the tea party is vague, contradictory, and full of utopian and destructive elements. Their convenient heralding of Rand suggests that the only way the tea party will have a future as a constructive part of American politics beyond the November election is if the movement seriously reassesses its intellectual arsenal.
Vladimir Shlapentokh is one of the founders of contemporary Soviet sociology. After emigrating to the United States from the USSR in 1979, he published several dozen books, as well as many articles on various sociological issues in Russian and American societies. His upcoming book (with Joshua Woods) is "Feudal America: The Elements of Middle Ages in Contemporary Society."