When we think about high-profile members of Congress who seem to enjoy Ayn Rand and Objectivism a little too much, we tend to focus on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). It is, after all, the failed vice presidential candidate who credits Rand for inspiring his political career and who required his interns to read “Atlas Shrugged.”
But while Ryan has begun distancing himself from his Objectivist allies, and his boosters have characterized his time as a Rand acolyte as “an embarrassing past flirtation,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) isn’t embarrassed at all (thanks to reader R.B. for the tip).
Johnson sat down with the Atlas Society, a Randian group, just last week to share all sorts of nonsensical thoughts. The right-wing senator told the organization, for example, that the Affordable Care Act, is the “greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime,” though he didn’t exactly explain why. He added, “I think Americans are a little bit like a bunch of frogs in that pot of water, and the water is being brought up to a boil. I think we’re losing freedoms across the board.”
Johnson also, naturally, sees parallels between reality and Rand novels: “We really have developed this culture of entitlement and dependency. That is not what America is all about. I mean, America – and that’s of course what ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is all about – it is about individuals aspiring to build things to make their life – and, as a result, the world – a better place. If we shift to a culture where people are saying, ‘I’m happy to sit back and let the government provide me with things,’ that becomes a dangerous point and time for this country.”
The novel, the senator explained, is his “foundational book.”
In fact, Johnson boasted about sponsoring an Atlas statute in Oshkosh: “There was a big old statue on the side of the road for sale, and it was Atlas. It had the world, it was obviously the Atlas Shrugged symbol, and he was thinking about buying it and I said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll pay for half of it.’”
As Tim Murphy joked, the Republican’s affinity for Rand “has literally been set in stone.”
A few months ago, Rolling Stone broached the subject with President Obama, who said, “Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America.”
Some clearly haven’t gotten the message just yet.