The problem is that elevating extremism to the level of serious discussion tends to confer enormous status on bad ideas and that makes it more difficult to fight against them. It also tends to move the discourse towards treating the bad ideas as reasonable ones - the Overton Window concept, more or less.The standard conventional wisdom about the 1964 election was that the Republican Party embraced radicalism with the Barry Goldwater nomination, and since then they've stayed away from it, having learned their lesson.
Now that the mainstream press operates so reliably with "scripts" cooked up in the Washington Beltway, they continue to recite the notion that the Republican Party is composed of reasonable conservatives. And so they largely ignore the most defining feature of mainstream politics, the cycle of radicalization in which the Republican Party is caught. With no end in sight.
Paul Krugman in Romney/Ryan: The Real Target describes how that feature works in the Ryan case:
Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan's case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. ...Even-the-liberal Kevin Drum at Mother Jones plays this game in Programming Note: Ryan 2013 Is Not Ryan 2012 08/17/2012, scolding liberals for not, uh, pretending Ryan's plan to end Medicare isn't completely sensible, someway somehow. KJ does make some good observations sometime. But ever since he played this liberal troll game in the lead-up to the Iraq War, this stuff coming from him has really annoyed me. Even a catastrophe like the Iraq War didn't persuade him to clean up his act. Basically, he tries to pretend that Ryan is the "bluff, honest guy" of Beltway scripting that Krugman analyzes so well.
So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.
The trouble, of course, is that it's really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. [my emphasis]
Here is the eminently respectable PBS Newshour bringing us Sleepy Mark Shields and National Reviewer Rich Lowry talking about Paul Ryan, Shields and Lowry on GOP Veep Choice Paul Ryan, Medicare 08/17/2012 (with transcript):
In reality, Ryan's selection as VP nominee (which formally happens at the Republican National Convention) is both a sign that Ayn Rand extremism is now respectable in the Republican Party and an furtherance of the radicalization process that made it so.
This is a nihilistic view, because Rand's philosophy that everyone should be sociopaths isn't a realistic view, even for a rightwing dictatorship. It completely rejects the entire view of a political community as a meaningful entity. As Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey wrote in Ephemera 2009 (7) 03/19/2009:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and [Ayn Rand's] Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.As George Lakoff warns in his "don't think of an elephant" example, even refuting a bad idea makes the audience think about the "framing" the bad idea employs. Lakoff makes a valuable point that the Democrats often try to use the Republicans' framing (e.g., gubment needs to tighten its belt) in a way that undercuts the Democrats' ability to build an alternative framing. But somebody also has to spend the time to understand the Republicans' ideologies, both nominal and real, and has to analyze and refute them in some way.
Although it's reflective of Rand's Sociopaths Rock! philosophy having been mainstreamed in the Republican Party, Ryan's prominence in national politics the last few years has helped produce some useful analysis of Randism, both the fantasy kind and the real existing versions.
The Atlas Society, a group of Rand admirers, provides a video and partial transcript of a speech Ryan gave to one of their meetings in Paul Ryan And Ayn Rand's Ideas: In The Hot Seat Again 04/30/2012, in which he references how he sees his own politics as reflecting Rand's outlook.
Digby and Alternet have been carrying lots of information on the Ayn Rand ideology the last few years: Digby, Randy Conservatives 10/06/2007; Bruce Levine, How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation Alternet 12/15/2011; Jan Frel, Paul Ryan's Biggest Influence: 10 Things You Should Know About the Lunatic Ayn Rand Alternet 08/12/2012
Think Progress carried two posts with the same title: Jeff Spross, [UPDATED] VIDEO: The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand 04/18/2011 and Climate Guest Blogger, VIDEO: The truth about GOP hero Ayn Rand 04/24/2011
Mark Ames describes the development of Rand's thought in a post whose title indicates his, uh, lack of sympathy with it: Paul Ryan’s Guru Ayn Rand Worshipped a Serial Killer Who Kidnapped and Dismembered Little Girls The eXiled 08/12/2012.
Tags: 2012 election, ayn rand, paul ryan