Michael Lind is a smart guy, but he’s also an ideologue so hellbent on the righteousness of his social-democratic worldview that he doesn’t let niggling things like facts get in the way of his proclamations. In his amusingly titled “Bring it on, Ayn Rand geeks,” Lind tells us Ron Paul is such an acolyte of the Atlas Shrugged author that he “named his son Rand Paul.” Devastating, except that Randal Paul, known to his family as Randy, isn’t actually named after Ayn, and while the Pauls may appreciate the novelist, the Texas congressman’s plan for transitioning away from the welfare state hardly evokes the pitiless ethos of Objectivism. Lind is also determined to anoint Rep. Paul Ryan, the darling of the neocons, as an entitlement-scrapping hardcore libertarian. Never mind that Ryan boasts of voting for the prescription drug add-on to Medicare. The Wisconsin congressman’s latest proposals may seem like austerity measures, but let’s be honest: they’re austerity measures proposed for a Democratic government. With a Republican in the White House, would you want to wager on Ryan humming the same tune?
Lind argues that the neoconservatives are discredited and the religious right is failing. But neoconservatives still supply the Republican Party’s foreign-policy vision, as a look at Mitt Romney’s new book will show. And while the religious right may be keeping its profile low, megachurches continue to turn out a lot of Republican primary voters and sizable enough masses in general elections. (Just ask Bob McDonnell.) What establishment conservatives are doing now, however, is giving rein to libertarian and populist discontent in the form of the tea parties in order to encourage the delusion that Obama is substantially more pro-big-government than the likes of Bush, McCain, or Romney. This is an old trick: whenever the GOP is out of power it assumes populist and libertarian camouflage, as it did in 1994. That’s an effective way of harnessing opposition to statist Democratic policies while diverting attention from the vast expansions of government power that regularly occur with Republicans in office. We have the GOP to thank, after all, for wage and price controls under Nixon; the Americans With Disabilities Act under Bush I; and two wars, No Child Left Behind, the prescription-drug benefit for Medicare, and the bank bailouts under Bush II. Yet all the propagandists insist this is the anti-government party.
The American electorate is not too thrilled with the establishment in either party right now — either the warmongers and Wall Street lobbyists-in-waiting in the GOP or the welfarists in the Democratic Party. The entrenched interests in both parties get to stick around, however, by affecting to give a damn about the little guy every time they’re out of power: Republicans suddenly become pitchfork-wielding anti-government populists and Democrats become deeply concerned about civil liberties and responsible government. Lind should know better than to play along with this charade.