"Down through history, various political and philosophical movements have sprung up. But most of them have died. Some, however, like Democracy or Communism, take hold and effect the entire world. Here in the United States, perhaps the most challenging and unusual new philosophy has been forged by a novelist, Ayn Rand. ... Ms. Rand's point of view is still comparatively unknown, but if it ever did take hold, it would revolutionize our lives." (Mike Wallace, The Mike Wallace Interview with Ayn Rand, 1959)"
"My top three fascinating people — my top three fascinating people this year are Ayn Rand, because I think she's at the front of an objectivist [sic] movement that's coming in this country. It's exhibited through No. 2 on my list, which is John Q. Public, as exhibited by these people at the tea party. And the No. 1 fascinating person to me, as it is every year, is the American man and woman in our military forces who afford us the opportunity to sit back here and have capricious endeavors like top 10 lists at the end of the year." - Dennis Miller, O'Reilly Factor, December 10, 2009
One year ago, I noted “momentous shifts in the direction America is moving…politically, culturally, and philosophically.” I warned of the statist trend inherited from the pseudo-free marketeer George W. Bush by the openly socialist President Barack Obama, a festering trend set to explode under the big government central planning ideology of the Democrats. I was hardly unique in fearing what was to come, and the fear proved all-too-true, not surprisingly.
Cap & Trade energy control legislation, socialized medicine masquerading as healthcare “reform”, FCC and FTC initiatives against First Amendment Rights, draconian expansions of EPA powers, the anti-trust assault on economic success, the vast expansion of government control over higher education through the federal takeover of the Federal Student Loan Program, TARP and the de facto nationalizations of the financial and automotive industries are just some of the more egregious actual and pending examples of the virulent statist trends unleashed by the 2008 election.
After the 2008 election, I expressed the belief that within a year of taking office, Barack Obama’s job approval ratings would be down to where Bush’s were, although I didn’t state it in my blog. With his first year coming to a close in a few weeks, that prediction looks pretty good. But one thing is for sure, the standing of the Democratic Party has collapsed, just one year after the Republican collapse. Generic polls show the Dems even with a moribund, directionless GOP.
E.J. Dionne, a columnist with the Washington Post, reports the dismal (for Obama and his party) poll numbers. Dionne, with whom I rarely agree, is right on when he says that the “Republican Party may not be able to win the  midterm elections, but Democrats definitely can lose them.” Yes, just as the Democrats didn’t win the 2008 elections, but the Republicans definitely lost them. Both parties, in other words, are bankrupt.
As we enter 2010, consequently, there is a huge political and ideological vacuum in America.
Today, we are drifting through the vacuum towards statism, by default. With a very likely disastrous 2010 mid-term election looming, and against the strong headwinds of collapsing popular support, the Democrats know that the window for enactment of their agenda is rapidly closing. Their idealistic fire is long gone, just as the GOP’s died last year. All that is pushing their agenda along is the inertia of a rock drifting through airless space - and political bribery, back-room dealing, and Postmodern language distortion.
This nation’s road forward is fraught with opportunity and peril. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the political and ideological vacuum will be filled, for better or worse. What will fill it?
Below the political surface are positive undercurrents. Independents now outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in political affiliation. IBD’s Terry Jones calls Independents a true third party, broadly characterized as economically conservative (free market-oriented) and socially liberal. In other words, the Independent political class represents the raw material for the emergence of a Party of Individual Rights. Dennis Miller’s comments quoted above are a strong indication that there is a hunger for just such a cultural force.
Today’s foremost advocates for individual rights are Ayn Rand Objectivists, led by the growing Washington think tank The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, the public outreach arm of the Ayn Rand Institute. That the Objectivist movement has reached the point where it is recognized prominently on a widely viewed, popular show like O’Reilly is stunningly positive. The Objectivist Movement “that's coming in this country” is a philosophical, not a political, movement. It is just what is desperately needed to break the inertia and turn the tide, and is a hopeful force going forward. Politics follows ideas.
Dennis Miller’s second on the list is “John Q. Public” because of the Tea Party Movement, another positive force. (Read an account of our participation at the 9/12/09 Washington DC March here, here, here, and here.) The Tea Party Movement is a grassroots, politically non-partisan phenomenon. It is powered by and for Independents, in spirit if not in fact. Significantly, Miller ties the emergence of the #2 “John Q. Public” Tea Parties to the leadership of #3 Ayn Rand. This may be somewhat overstating the case. Nevertheless, Objectivism is well positioned to capitalize on the burgeoning Independent sector that leans toward individualism. Independent individualism, such as it exists, is undefined and is evident more in the nature of an implicit “sense of life”. The need for a firm philosophic voice is a fertile frontier open to a consistent, uncompromising defender and advocate for individual rights and limited government. Objectivism fits the bill.
Reflecting on 2009, three powerful trends stand out. The first is the pent-up statist aggression that was unleashed by a Democratic Party enjoying its most dominant political position since 1965-66. No surprise there. The second is the Tea Party Rebellion. Essentially, that is what I foresaw as a consequence of Obama’s election over McCain when I said on 10/31/08:
“The danger is that a President McCain will discredit, demoralize, and split the pro-free market forces between those who feel obligated to support the GOP guy they voted for, despite bad policies, and those who oppose him on principle.
“With Obama in the White House…, the disparate elements of what today passes for the ‘Right’ will present a solid wall of opposition.”
Obama has indeed galvanized the Right in a way that McCain never could have. The “solid wall of opposition” took the form of the Tea Party Movement.
The third trend of 2009 was a stunning surprise. What I didn’t foresee – what I dared not hope for – was the 2009 emergence of Objectivism as so powerful a force within the Anti-Obama rebellion. What this indicates is that the collectivism/individualism philosophical battle has now gained a firm and strengthening position in the national debate, coming more and more to define the Obama-Tea Party political conflict, thanks to last year’s #3 big development.
Today, American politics is dominated by the collision of the Democrat collectivist Left and the Republican Religious Right. A third force of individualism is now unquestionably emerging. Does Dennis Miller's vision of "an Objectivist movement that is coming in America" signal the beginnings of the revolution that, 50 years ago, Mike Wallace predicted would occur if "[Ayn] Rand's point of view ... ever did take hold"?
One thing is certain. A full-fledged counter-revolution is now raging against the American Founding. The counter-revolutionaries are winning by philosophical default, so far. But Dennis Miller is pointing toward the only effective force capable of repelling the anti-American onslaught - a full and complete Second American Revolution.
On a personal note, 2009 was as good a year for me as it was tumultuous for America. My family continues to do well, including my six thriving, Montessori-educated grandchildren…the first letters of whose names form my publishing pen name Zemack.
I have had another letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger in 2009, but four rejected (vs. 3 for 4 in 2008). The subject of that letter was our participation in the D.C. Tea Party of September 12. My blog archives continue to expand significantly. And my on-line forum activity has continued, as reported on my secondary blog, Prin-Spec References.
It is not just on my own behalf that I engage on the battleground of ideas. It is for my wife, my two daughters and sons-in-law, and six grandchildren that I fight for the kinds of ideas that will make for a better and freer America. In fighting for the rights of myself and those closest to me, I am also fighting for the rights of everyone; because rights are unalienable and held equally and at all times by all people.
As we enter 2010, we can see that we are in uncharted waters. The battle of ideas, and in particular moral ideas, is more important than ever. This is why the case for individualism must be on the intellectual front lines.
The road toward a better future of expanding freedom and prosperity in America rests on such basics as recognition of the indispensability and irreplaceability of individual self-esteem. Such a person is not likely to easily submit to government control of his life. This is, I believe, the spirit of Dennis Miller’s #2 most fascinating people.
We have it within our power to control our lives. That power is reason. External events that are beyond our capacity of volition can come along, yes. But they are the exception in what is essentially a benevolent universe. Understanding that, for each of us, the values we choose, the choices we make and the ideas we accept are the primary determinant of the course of our personal lives is key to making 2010 a good year.
And recognizing the power of individual self-determination is key to making 2010 a good year for America. The philosophy we choose to govern our own lives will be reflected in our politics.
Individualism leads to freedom.
Happy New Year!