The Oddly Un-American Republican Convention

An obsession with Randian individualism has turned the GOP into a fantasyland of faux Jeremiah Johnsons and John Galts

It was truly my intention not to watch any live coverage of the current Republican national convention — or, for that matter, next week’s Democratic convention — other than the main speeches by the nominees themselves. I’m sure this is the type of thing that would make some question my journalism credentials. So be it. I just happen to be the type who looks at the millions of dollars being pumped into coverage (and parties) by everyone from national networks to community papers and instantly considers that the industry as a whole continues to slash budgets for investigative and enterprise reporting. It’s too many people on too little story.

At least, that is my curmudgeonly reason. The second reason is that, after the 2008 election cycle, I just don’t need that level of anger in my life. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m already decided on this election — I’m a high-information voter who’s not going to be swayed by a well-produced and highly fictional GOP convention. I don’t need the stress of getting worked up by an endless series of live speeches I can read about more quickly the next morning. Less yelling at the television leads to a less stressful home life.

Unfortunately, someone at the gym turned nearly every channel in the locker room to Fox News on Tuesday night and, as fate would have it, I ended being exposed to Santorum. Aside from the outright lies on welfare, which I’m sure he has a good Catholic reason for telling, I caught part of the ”We built this” theme in his speech. Later, after bringing my blood pressure down with some nice and calming cardio, I caught New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie extolling the same radical individualist ideology.

Really, we have a group of politicians standing up in front of arguably the most technologically interconnected and economically interdependent nation on earth, acting as if they’re a party full of Daniel Boones, Jeremiah Johnsons and John Galts, all ready to be dropped off at a moment’s notice in the wilderness to build their own societies from scratch. For Republicans, the great Venn diagram of American interdependence looks like a Twister board.

Look, I flirted with Ayn Rand in college. I couldn’t get through her turgid novels, but I ate up The Virtue of Selfishness, from her denunciations of altruism to her promotion of private currencies and police forces. Reading Rand makes you feel important, makes you feel special. And, like most others, I ended the phase when I got out into the real world and realized that no matter how talented or ambitious I may be, I’m not that special.

Rural electrification, public schools and college grants – in addition to the work my parents did for me – gave me the opportunity to pursue my dreams. Government assistance during a rough patch in the early 1990s got me through being unemployed. I consider myself successful at what I want to do and I’m proud of things I’ve achieved, but I didn’t do it by myself. No one does. The idea that a community would watch out for its own, from neighborhood children to corner businesses, was simply American common sense until Hillary Clinton wrote a book about it, and then Republicans decided that common sense was a socialist plot.

To me, it is a weirdly un-American ideology for a party that wraps itself in the language of ”liberty” and a patriotism that has all the moral authority of high-school football fans chanting, ”We’re No. 1!” It doesn’t just leave me feeling angry, it leaves me feeling disappointed. As a country, we can do better than this.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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