9:23 p.m. August 22, 2012

Shot by both sides

In a recent stump speech (which may have taken place on an actual tree stump, perhaps in a once shady glen righteously deforested to print another million unread copies of "The Romantic Manifesto"), the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, said this of Mitt Romney’s "Atlas Shrugged"-thumping running mate, Paul Ryan: “He is anything but a libertarian, anything but.”

The Libertarian Party is the standard-bearer of Rand’s Objectivist religion (don’t be fooled into thinking—simply because Rand was a strident atheist—that her cult is any less of a cult) and, as the leader of his party, Johnson has plenty of ground to make his claim: that Ryan is a Libertarian In Name Only.

Not even your weaseliest, RINO-sticky-note-wielding Club For Growther has such a sturdy pulpit from which to preach purity. Unlike the mishmash of vestigial evangelism and trickle-down Goldwaterism that is today’s GOP, the Libertarian Party huffs a pure, uncut strain of batshit. Its handful of canonical texts are either written by Rand—"Atlas Shrugged" more than "The Romantic Manifesto," but still—or were advocated by her during her lifetime. It’s downright fucking biblical. So when Johnson brands Ryan a LINO, you'd best believe it.

The basis of Ryan’s heresy is simple: His batshit isn’t batshitty enough. According to Johnson, Ryan’s qualifications for LINO-hood include, among other things, voting to ban online poker.

After all, one of Rand’s core commandments is “Thou shalt not introduce legislation that seeks to shackle the noble, sacred forces of capitalism and human production.” Because online poker is definitely that. That’s not to say that Johnson and his party don’t have many reasonable ideas tucked inside the batshit, including opposition to the Patriot Act and—most interestingly—a staunch belief that the government has no right to regulate a woman’s body. Then again, the Libertarian Party also believes that the government has no right to regulate airlines or oil companies, so the notion that Ryan might somehow toe this haywire line while running on the GOP ticket is, well, okay, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

Weirdly, the idea that Ryan could, by any measure, be considered a wishy-washy centrist isn’t the weird part. It’s the fact that Ryan long ago doubled down on the libertarian tag—presumably knowing full well that it’s an either/or proposition. The craziest thing about Johnson and his party isn’t all the craziness—it’s Rand’s “A is A” rigidity, the overarching ethic of inflexibility. Compromise in any form was seen as an evil by Rand. Absolute moral certitude or GTFO.

And GTFO Ryan may have to do, at least when it comes to the Libertarian hardline. As much as libertarian concepts of selfishness and privatization have been jammed into the Republican Party over the decades—most recently in suppository form by the Tea Party—there’s still a lot about Rand’s worldview that the GOP base, let alone swing voters, are oblivious to.

And for good reason.

Rand once infamously wrote, “A man wears a mustache because there's something he wants to conceal, a spiritual defect.” That was the extent to which she micromanaged the tenets of her in-all-but-name religion. Ryan may have a clean, gleaming upper lip, but there’s no way that kind of talk will ever fly in Ohio.

Back channel chatter

There is a scribble about this dispatch in the backroom, with two contributors.