Former New Republic intern Ellsworth Noah Kristula-Green, writing at Frum Forum (where else?), observes the prominent role that the writings of Ayn Rand are playing in providing intellectual fuel for opposition to the Age of Obama with harrumphing indignation.
Randâ€™s popularity tells us two things about the state of modern conservatism.
First, it suggests that Randâ€™s atheism and permissive social views are no longer deal-breakers among conservative thought leaders. Jennifer Burns, the author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, has explored Randâ€™s influence through the years. She told FrumForum that while religion had been a crucial issue for William F. Buckley and the conservatives of the 1970s, â€œsomeone like Glenn Beck isnâ€™t going to argue about the existence of God or the need for religion. Beck and Limbaugh can use the parts of Rand they want to use and not engage the rest.â€
Second and more troubling, the conservative rediscovery of Rand signals an increasing conservative divergence from mainstream America. Conservatives falsely assume that because more copies of Randâ€™s books are being sold, that everyone who reads them agrees with her. Conservatives are buying into Randâ€™s extreme views without understanding why many peopleâ€”and not only liberalsâ€”revile her.
Contra Kristula-Green, Rand’s strong readership over many decades and the ability of her ideas to make their way and expand their influence in the face of entrenched establishment opposition, and despite an embarrassing personal cult, constitutes good evidence that Rand’s values and political perspective were very much in tune with the American mainstream (if not with its cultural elite), a nation whose soul, in D. H. Lawrence’s critical view was always “hard, isolate, stoic and… unmelted.”