I’ve been giving a few talks lately about the upcoming film Occupy Unmasked that I appear in to conservative / Tea Party audiences and there are always people coming up and asking for more details about how I left the Left and why I became a conservative. I thought I’d provide a little written background here for anyone looking for it. I’m planning to cover this in much greater depth in a book at some point soon.
I was introduced to libertarian thought around 1979 when I was about 13 and I read Robert Ringer’s 1977 book Looking Out for Number One, a sort of pop culture / self help remix of some of Ayn Rand’s idea. I did little work for the 1980 Clark / Koch Libertarian Party ticket. (Yes, that Koch is one of the now famous Koch Brothers. Did you know David Koch ran for Libertarian V.P.?)
Around 1980 – 1981, I also met a little clique of people who were fans of both Ayn Rand and the Canadian power trio Rush, whose album 2112 was dedicated ‘to the genius of Ayn Rand.’ Although Rand herself hated libertarians, the politics were similar and like a lot of young people, I devoured her work. I had tickets to see Ayn Rand speak in 1982 but she passed away before that happened. I ended up diving headfirst into the world of Objectivism; I went to Rand’s funeral, did the audio recording on one of her heir Leonard Peikoff’s lecture courses, and went to a private Objectivist high school. Objectivists generally eschewed practical politics, so I did, too.
Seeing Objectivism up close wasn’t pleasant, really. There was a ton of infighting going on in the wake of Ayn Rand’s death and Objectivism had a history of purges going back to the split between Rand and her protege / secret lover Nathaniel Branden in the late 1960s. There were a number of other big splits in the Objectivist movement throughout the 1980s and early 1990s and it just became tiring.
I was in my twenties at this point and started to drift out of the whole thing. I considered myself an expatriate small o objectivist. I was starting businesses at the time and began doing TV and film work in Los Angeles. More importantly, I began to question many of Rand’s ideas and the practicality of libertarian politics. Though most of 1990s, I was fairly apolitical; vaguely libertarian but I don’t think I voted once or did anything much in the way of activism. The issue of free speech continued to be a passion of mine and as I began homeschooling my son Shane, so did education.
In Part Two : my liberal years begin.