Chris Sciabarra has tried to dredge up the Russian influence on Rand, but little has been done to illuminate the conservative influence. Although Rand was never a conservative, she was clearly influenced by certain notions about history, philosophy, and the role of ideas in society that were commonplace among conservatives in the thirties and forties.
In 1940, Rand campaigned for Wendel Wilkie. This episode in her career influenced what would later become her philosophy of history. Her frustration at trying to convince people to vote for Wilkie rather than Roosevelt convinced her of the futility of trying to reason with people. But rather than assuming that ideas and reason are impotent, Rand concluded that only political ideas were impotent, because such ideas depended on a metaphysical and epistemological foundation.
This theory that political ideas and receptivity to "reason" depended on the higher branches philosophy was fairly common among conservative thinkers in the 30s and 40s. The theory was largely inspired by a misreading of George Santayana, the most important and respected conservative philosopher of the 20th century. Santayana did not care much for modern philosophy, which he regarded as dismally subjectivist. The two main strands of modern philosophy, German Idealism and British Empiricism, both regarded consciousness (or the experience of consciousness) as the starting point and main focus of philosophical investigation—the only thing "given" in man's knowledge. Santayana considered this view not only mistaken, but foolish and conceited. He had studied philosophy at Harvard, Oxford, and in Germany in the closing decades of the 19th century, when German Idealism dominated Anglo-America and German philosophy. Santayana consequently devoted much of his philosophy to criticizing and ridiculing, with his usual detached irony, all manifestions and forms of German idealism. During World War I he published an essay entitled "German Freedom," which helped popularize the thesis that Hegel's political philosophy is essentially totalitarian at its core. "For liberal freedom, for individualism, [Hegel and his followers] have a great contempt," Santayana wrote. "They say a man is nothing but the sum of his relations to other things... And they further say that a dutiful soul is right in feeling that the world it accepts and cooperates with its own work; for, according to their metaphysics, the world is only his idea which each man makes after his own image, and even as you are, so is the world you imagine you live in. Only a foolish recalcitrant person, who does not recognize the handiwork of his own spirit about him, rebels against it, and thereby cancels his natural freedom; for everywhere he finds contradictions and closed doors and irksome necessities, being divided against himself and constantly bidding his left hand undo what his right is doing. So that, paradoxical as it may seem, it is only when you conform that you are free, while if you rebel and secede you become a slave. Your spiritual servitude in such a case would only be manifesting itself in phenomenal form if the government should put you in prison."
Conservatives during the 30s and 40s were not particularly sophisticated in their thinking, and so they interpreted Santayana's subtle and ironical essay on German freedom in simple cause and effect terms, as if Santayana were declaring that statism is caused by German metaphysics. Hence we find Albert Jay Nock, considered one of the leading conservative intellectuals of the thirties, declaring that Hitlerism, Bolshevism, and Fascism "are all essentially ... branches off the same tree planted by the German idealist philosophers." It is likely Rand was exposed to such notions during her involvement in the conservative movement during the forties. This idea that higher philosophy (namely, "German metaphysics") is the root cause of statism thus became embedded in her mind during her formative years. Later, she would twist this notion for her own purposes, until at last we find it springing forth in the title essay of For the New Intellectual.