<< ARI Watch< Part I · Part III  Part IV  >

Presidential Elections – ARI  1984 to 2000

In the years following Ayn Rand’s death ARI associates carried on her policy regarding presidential elections.  At first.

In the four campaigns after Reagan vs. Carter (1980) when they gave advice at all it was either don’t vote or vote Democrat to counterbalance a Republican Congress. As before we list the presidential races Republican vs. Democrat, the eventual winner bolded:

1984  ·  Ronald Reagan  vs.  Walter Mondale
1988  ·  George Bush (Sr.)  vs.  Michael Dukakis
1992  ·  George Bush (Sr.)  vs.  Bill Clinton
1996  ·  Bob Dole  vs.  Bill Clinton  (also Ross Perot, indep.)

Then came:
2000  ·  George W. Bush  vs.  Al Gore
Bush enters this race with a corrupt and disreputable past. He had been a  rich-kid  ne’er-do-well  drunkard and drug addict with political connections (the CIA and the BCCI bank), then a flaky born-again Christian and Governor of Texas.  He paid lip service to conservatism, a kind he called “compassionate.”  Gore, the vice president under Clinton, was an environmentalist.  Both had a liberal political agenda though Gore was more open about it. An unhappy choice, a choice between mixtures mostly bad.

Congress is dominated by Republicans. Bush is carrying the same Neocons, loathed by Ayn Rand when she was alive, that Reagan had. Considering all this, the best action is either to vote Gore, or choose “none of the above” by either not voting at all or – what would amount to the same thing – voting for an independent candidate. (The Libertarians field an articulate candidate this year, Harry Browne, and his campaign is good educational propaganda.)

Instead, ARI publishes an amazing Op-Ed saying Bush vs. Gore is not a choice between two evils but a choice between good and evil. If memory serves  (ARI removed the Op-Ed from their website)  it had something like good versus evil in the title or subtitle – certainly it was in the text. [1]

Before ARI publishes its Op-Eds it subjects them to extensive editorial review, there are no “rogue” writers at ARI. [2]  Why the change in policy from previous elections? One can only conjecture. January 2000 Leonard Peikoff had appointed a new Executive Director to ARI, one Yaron Brook  (for his background see  Who’s Who  on this website).  And Mr. Peikoff approved of Mr. Brook’s subsequent behavior, as he made clear in a talk not long after the election. [3]  Ultimately whatever happened at ARI regarding the election comes back to Mr. Peikoff. It would make a good podcast question for him.

Other ARI articles are not so extreme, but for the most part they present Bush as far better than Gore. All in all ARI publishes three Op-Eds strongly criticizing Gore; and one Op-Ed and two Press Releases criticizing Bush in a sympathetic manner, like a coach pleading with his team to buck up. [4]  The day before the election ARI publishes one more Op-Ed endorsing Bush, not as white vs. black as the first, mentioned above, but ARI makes it clear who they want the victor:

America’s Real Choice  by Robert Tracinski,  ARI op-ed, November 6, 2000.

It begins:
“The voters face a clear choice in tomorrow’s election ...”
and after some qualifications ends:
“A Gore victory would be a moral mandate for more government intrusion in our lives; a Bush victory will represent a moral mandate for protecting us from government power.

“For that reason alone, I’ll be voting for Bush tomorrow. I’ll be voting, not so much for the man, but for the anti-big-government stance [5]  that he represents.”
One can only marvel at dishing up Bush, even in 2000, as anti-big-government. Even compared to Gore he could not honestly be so described. This is not a case of being fooled.  (Two years later ARI defended Bush’s subsequent expansion of government power – power that now is in the hands of someone else.  See  “War Powers Without War,”  The Complicity of Silence,  and other pages on this website.)

Bush won and ARI exulted in his victory.  “The Two Americas” Op-Ed by Robert Tracinski (November 13, 2000) begins:

“The vote last Tuesday wasn’t even close.

“... If you look at the national totals, the electoral college count, and the chaos in Florida, this election is probably the closest in history. But look at it again ... . For about half of the nation—clustered in urban areas, mainly in the Northeast and on the West Coast—Al Gore was the clear winner. But a huge swath of the country—the South, West, Midwest, and rural districts practically everywhere—chose George W. Bush by a landslide. ¶ Folks in my own county in central Virginia, for example, voted for Bush by 54 to 43 percent ... .”
Well, a landslide against Gore perhaps, and Mr. Tracinski neglects to mention the high percentage of people who voted “none of the above.”  The fact is Bush won handily only because the public was fed up with Clinton and leery of anyone associated with him. We quote enough of what follows to reveal ARI’s insufferably condescending attitude – backhand style – towards the best of the American public:
“... that is the conflict in this election. It is a clash primarily between urban elites and what those elites sometimes call ‘flyover country.’  It’s a clear contrast between two Americas with two different views of life.

“Rural America generally reflects the original values of America’s founding. In all things, wrote the famous 19th-century observer of American culture, Alexis de Tocqueville, the American ‘relies on individual effort and judgment.’  The typical American was contemptuous of tradition and authority and confident in his ability to solve his own problems. This led the Americans to accept a moral philosophy of ‘self-interest properly understood’—that is, long-term, rational self-interest—a viewpoint ‘you hear . . . as much from the poor as from the rich.’  And for the early Americans, greed was good. ‘What we call love of gain,’ Tocqueville says, ‘is praiseworthy industry to the Americans.’

“This is the outlook summed up by that uniquely American phrase ‘rugged individualism,’ ... still dominant in much of the country today. The American ‘common man’ tends to believe in independence, individual responsibility and self-reliance. These people don't want government interference in their lives, even if it's billed as ‘help.’ ... it’s no surprise that they responded to Bush’s campaign rhetoric.”
Very well !  But it was ARI’s job to tell Americans that that rhetoric was nothing more than phony campaign oratory – which at the time was obvious to any perceptive intellect.  Instead, ARI presented Bush’s pronouncements as sincere. Bush deceived the better of the two Americas, the one ARI calls the “common man,” and ARI helped with the deception.  (They continued helping him after he was elected,  see  Our Bold, Fearless Leader  and  “The Big Lie: Intelligence Failure in Iraq”  on this website;  and even into his second term,  see  How to Kill an Idea  also on this website.)

After praising the common man for in effect being a fool,  Mr. Tracinski says that American universities have been indoctrinating their students in un-American ideals for generations. He contrasts these students with less schooled Americans, who retain more of the ideals of the Founders – all of which is true enough.  Mr. Tracinski concludes:  “The two Americas who squared off in this year’s election are just a symptom of this fundamental gulf—this dangerous conflict between America and its intellectuals.”  No, there was no squaring off in the election, though the conflict is real.

ARI writers place themselves above the conflict and would have you believe they are a new kind of intellectual. But, despite their protestations to the contrary, on many important issues of the day rather than New Intellectuals they act like New Conservatives.

To continue with the election:  The electoral college vote is close, and Gore only needs Florida, where the ballot count is especially close, to win. Gore contests the count. ARI publishes no less than three Op-Eds defending the count and supporting Bush:  “It Depends On What the Meaning of the Word ‘Vote’ Is” (Nov. 20),  “The Democrats’ ‘World of Non-A’ ” (Nov. 27),  and  “Where Are the Bloodhounds? (Dec. 4). [6]

In the end the folks at ARI got what they wanted:  George W. Bush – along with what we suspect they very much wanted, his Neocon advisors.

(Bush will be known for his response to the 9-11 attack. His attitude is best summarized by a remark he made just days later.  After speaking of his campaign promise to maintain a budget surplus except in the event of  “recession, war or national emergency,”  he cracked a joke with his budget director:  “Lucky me,” he said, “I hit the trifecta.” [7]  Subsequently ARI writers criticized Bush only when he did not support Israel enough, or did not attack Israel’s enemies enough. And they liked the man himself. For example, two years into his first term Andrew Bernstein, in his article “In Defense of the Cowboy” – ARI op-ed, Feb. 26, 2003 – compared Bush with those heroes of our childhood, the Texas Rangers.)



1  The Internet Wayback Machine missed archiving the article and unfortunately we didn’t save it – this was several years before ARI Watch existed or was even contemplated.  (If the reader has this  Bush-good  Gore-evil  op-ed  would you forward a copy? Our contact address is at the bottom of this website’s main page.)

ARI also disappeared from their website the other articles from 2000 we reference here, but they can still be found on the Wayback Machine,  www.archive.org.

2  That is, when their work is published by ARI.  Some ARI members, such as Harry Binswanger (on the Board of Directors), are more outspoken outside of ARI.

3  Near the end of his Ford Hall Forum talk “America versus Americans” (not the Q&A) April 6, 2003, Mr. Peikoff said:

“... we at the Ayn Rand Institute are doing what we can to spread some better ideas. Dr. Yaron Brook alone, its executive director – sitting right there – in the last six months has been interviewed on 59 radio and television programs and in the press, and has given 31 speeches to groups large and small, trying to get the word out. But no one man even he, no one institute, can change the world.”

(See  Relentless Propaganda: Redux for Iran  on this website.)

4  One of ARI’s press releases was  “Advice to the GOP: Bush Needs a Republican Agenda,”  September 12, 2000.  It begins (we leave off our external quotemarks):

The GOP could spend four more years locked outside the White House for one reason: George W. Bush sounds too much like Al Gore, said a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute.

“At the nominating conventions, both candidates endorsed ‘sacrifice,’ ‘community,’ and ‘big government,’ ” said Richard Salsman... .  “These positions should be expected from Al Gore — the Democratic Party is the traditional party of big government and statism — but not from a Republican candidate. Indeed, a strong case could be made that America’s current prosperity is a result of the Republicans’ pro-freedom, pro-individualist policies in the 1980s and early 1990s. ... .”

Note the general whitewash of past Republicans, the false reconstruction of Reagan’s presidency as “pro-freedom, pro-individualist” in particular. Reagan failed to keep his promise to abolish the Selective Service, more than quadrupled the federal budget, and brought the first wave of Neocons to Washington. With the exception of lowering federal taxes for the wealthy (which are comparatively higher than for others) none of his policies were those of a libertarian.  Mr. Salsman concludes with some friendly advice:

“Given only an echo, not a choice, by the Republicans, voters may well opt for the real McCoy, Al Gore.”

Salsman said that the Republicans’ only real option to win is to adopt a consistent, principled message that resonates with voters: less government and more freedom.

Whatever message Bush adopted to con the voters ARI endorsed his candidacy.

5  Unwittingly ARI used the right word – “stance,” as in posturing – it was not a stand – but nobody makes that distinction these days. As for the overall import of this article (along with some of the others mentioned above), it is a blatant violation of ARI’s 501(3)(c) status. Non-profits may discuss issues but are forbidden from endorsing political candidates.  People donated to ARI thinking they were promoting Objectivism and ended up promoting George W. Bush.

6  Here’s one instance of how far ARI went to support Bush.  During the contested Florida vote re-count the Associated Press reported a spontaneous demonstration of Bush supporters storming the building where the re-count was being conducted, forcing their way in, shouting pro-Bush slogans.  ARI’s Op-Ed  “The Democrats’ ‘World of Non-A’ ” (Nov. 27) describes this event as “middle-class Republicans blowing whistles and horns outside County Hall”  (leaving out the violence and tresspass) and points out (what is true enough) the contradiction of leftists condemning any riot considering their past support of riots, then goes on to condemn the Gore campaign for “vilifying the Republican protesters” – and thus implicitly praising them.  (Mr. Tracinski praises them directly in the TIA version, where he says:  though he does not approve of hooliganism it is about time the Republicans showed some “backbone.”)

The day after the demonstration AP reports that it was neither spontaneous nor middle class after all, the hooligans were paid Republican operatives bussed in by campaign headquarters. In other words the spontaneous demonstration of the middle-class was a fraud.  Neither ARI nor TIA printed a correction, which failure better deserves the epithet “World of Non-A.”

7  “Trifecta” is a horseracing term meaning the correct selection, in order, of the first three finishers.  See footnote 3 of  Our Bold, Fearless Leader  on this website.

Next  page >

(The discussion of Leonard Peikoff’s  “DIM hypothesis”  has been moved to the next page.)