Ayn’s Rand’s policies have always been considered of the far-right-fringe variety. But as this week’s colossal electoral bungling has now exhibited, the “got mine, #$%@ you” school of politics is just as alive and well on what is considered the other side of the fence, as well.
For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the word “liberal” in much the way Thomas Frank has in his recent sublime book Listen Liberal. “Liberal” in this article will refer not to an actual left-wing, progressive, old-school-New-Deal style believer in the government’s power to help, but rather an ivory tower intellectual who believes in the supremacy of the professional class with the zeal that a hard-line Communist believes in the workers or a Libertarian believes in the free market. Extremism in any form is dangerous, no matter how good your intentions.
So we have a Liberal Randianism now in play: my desires are paramount, I deserve everything I get and those who don’t get anything are just not good enough. On social media after the election, the objectivism was palpable: what happened to the country, America died, I weep for America, et cetera, et cetera. And yet, for what turned out to be almost half of the country (because the Electoral College is an undemocratic nightmare and anyone with half an interest in progressive politics has been calling for its repeal for decades) their America is renewed. It is born again. It is, to use the zeitgeist, Great Again.
But those people must be wrong. Of course they are. After all, it contradicts with what I think, and we all know I am never wrong. Why, I have a degree, and a job that makes lots of money so I can afford lots of toys, so therefore I’m better than these others who voted wrongly. I deserve this, you don’t, so you should just keep voting for the candidates that give me more, obviously. I mean, it’s not like my own situation could have turned on the blade of a razor and I could be destitute instead in a society that incarcerates more than it educates, that punishes more than it helps. No, it must be that I am of some rarefied earth, blessed to be of the superior kind and all of the rest of you are just dirty proles who don’t know how to vote correctly.
I’m going to say some uncomfortable things right now. As a real liberal, as a progressive, you shouldn’t be rich. You should barely be comfortable in your life. You shouldn’t feel superior, in fact you should live every day in the fear that it could all be taken away from you in an instant, and that you thank whatever you choose to pray to that you have what you have in this moment. There should be no hubris in a liberal party, no assurances of victory or blind loyalty. There should be no guarantees that you can scheme and triangulate your way into power by cannily playing the big money with the little people. Indeed, there should be no concept of “in power” because your ultimate judge in this situation is the people you represent, and even being in a position where you think you have power over someone else is not what liberalism is about. You try for every vote, every district, every state and every person because they are people and God damn it they have value as more than pawns in your game.
To be a liberal is to be nervous, to be worried, to be forever wondering if you’ve done enough. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us strong. It doesn’t mean we lack strength, it means we have gained a soul. Liberals lost their way when they started to try to balance New Deal populism with Ayn Rand-style objectivism in their political quests for power and glory. And now, after 30 years of trying to play the majority of the population for fools to line their pockets, liberals are having a reckoning of their own. Neoliberalism should be buried along with Hillary Clinton’s aspirations, as both are anathema to what it means to be on the left. It is time to return to our roots and become the Party of the People once more, and not the Party of the Personal Pocketbook. There is a young, roiling mass of American humanity ready to take action and turn this country around, and I say it is time to suffer the children and let them take control. It’s the least the older generations can do after applying the rod for so long.
We just might make America “Great Again,” but this time it will be great for all of us.