"For nearly a decade Democrats have sought a religious wedge issue that could separate big chunks of white evangelical voters from their Republican home. Now they've found it, and are thrusting at the Social Darwinist/Ayn Rand underbelly of American conservatism."
This is how Marvin Olasky -- icon of the religious right and editor-in-chief of the most influential conservative evangelical publication in the country -- begins his article in this week's WORLD magazine.
He goes on to bash Rand's manifesto, Atlas Shrugged.
Olasky also quotes fellow conservative Whittaker Chambers, who quite effectively summarizes Rand's depravity: "I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained... From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!'" [emphasis added.]
Olasky then turns his critique to Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and other GOP leaders, virtually quoting from American Values Network's (AVN) ad. He concludes by saying Ryan, et al. "should show what in Rand they agree with and what they spurn. The GOP's big tent should include both libertarians and Christians, but not anti-Christians."
Think about the significance of this for a moment. The editor of the most prominent Christian Right publication in this country is telling his readers that books like Atlas Shrugged (which he points out a number of GOP leaders force their interns to read) are what make possible places like Auschwitz! And the author of the GOP Budget is saying we need more of Ayn Rand's morality in Washington, D.C.
Olasky is right. We have found the GOP's vulnerable underbelly and a wedge issue that can split the unholy alliance of the Tea Party libertarians and Christian Right within the GOP. This is not just a partisan opportunity, however. Rand, ironically enough, presents an opportunity to "restore balance to the Force" when it comes to the faith and politics discussion in this country. After all, where else do we see Chuck Colson and Marvin Olasky prophetically engaging and leading on the same issue as Jim Wallis and Thom Hartman? To a certain extent, even Glenn Beck came around on the issue after watching AVN's ad!
But if we're going to see gains in national discourse or at the ballot box, the GOP hypocrisy needs to be highlighted more broadly. The GOP has been able to swiftboat our candidates with lies because they have invested heavily in spreading them. Our truths should be easier to convince people of, but voters need to hear our arguments before they can be convinced.
We have a great ad and messaging framework that can split the unholy alliance of Tea Party libertarians and the Christian Right within the GOP. The question is whether Democrats and progressives will be smart enough to invest the resources to make sure Americans see the contradictions (and frame those contradictions in terms Americans can understand) before the GOP spin machine can patch up the holes once again.