Yesterday I wrote about some remarkable new videos coming out of the FreedomWorks conference last weekend by progressive journalist Lauren Windsor. She’s out with another one that is worth watching and taking note of, because it is another sign that even though Romney’s infamous 47% video was the single thing that did more to beat him than any other event in the campaign, the Republicans can’t help themselves: they just can’t leave this stuff alone. Take a look at Congressman Schweikert as he struggles to explain how over half of Americans will soon be on the government dole and how scary this is, and yet not politically embarrass himself (hint: he doesn’t succeed).
The significant thing about this video is the “can’t help themselves” aspect of this message. Republicans know that the 47% video was a communications disaster for them, and most of the people in the party have been trying to distance themselves from it ever since. But when you see a congressman like Schweikert wandering all over the rhetorical landscape trying to justify, rationalize, backtrack and then come back to it in this video, it is a reminder of how deeply embedded in the conservative philosophy and DNA this Ayn Rand-style message is.
Even though they got dramatic evidence last year of how politically damning this sort of messaging is, they can’t help themselves. This notion that anyone getting any help of any kind from government is a “leech” in Ayn Rand’s words, or a “taker” in Paul Ryan’s words, is absolutely foundational to what they believe and who they are. They believe in a society where the wealthy are wealthy because they are smarter, better people than everyone else, and where those who are struggling to make it are doing so because they are too lazy or dumb to be successful. They are delighted with an economic structure where, in Glenn Beck’s words to a CPAC conference a couple of years ago (words greeted with laughter and enthusiastic applause) “the lions eat the weak”. This is who they are, so while they may try to frame it better, dance around it, explain it in a new way…there is no way they can walk away from the core idea. As Ayn Rand used to say, for them greed and selfishness are good, and charity and kindness just encourage the leeches.
The reason this kind of language is so harmful to Republicans is because most Americans fundamentally reject this philosophy. There is a streak of individualism in the American character, and a wariness of too much government. But not very many of us really believe that those who need some help are bad people. Most of us know that senior citizens need and deserve the Social Security benefits they receive, and the health care coverage they get from Medicare; most of us reject Ayn Rand’s belief that people with disabilities are leeches on society and deserve no help or benefits from the government; most of us know that veterans and their families that are receiving pensions and health care benefits from the government deserve them; most of us don’t want children to starve, and support the idea of prenatal care for pregnant mothers, and Head Start and good education for our kids. And most of us believe that wealthy folks actually do owe something back to our society, and ought to pay their fair share in taxes.
This old Ayn Rand, “greed is good”, “kindness is weakness,” “devil take the hindmost” philosophy is a killer for the Republican party, but they are stuck with it. They got infected with the virus a long time, and the virus has merged into their DNA. They can hide it with better talking points and a compassionate conservatism gloss, but get them talking and it comes to the surface pretty damn fast. And every time we catch them openly talking in this way, Democrats should show the video over and over again and keep talking about it, because when this philosophy sees the light of day, it is doom for the Republican party.