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Meet Ron Johnson, the Randiest of the Ayn Rand Republicans

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Cross-posted from The Nation


Senator Ron Johnson speaks to reporters in 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.)

There is ample evidence to suggest that leading Republican members of the House and Senate are a good deal more familiar with the fiction of Ayn Rand than with the self-evident truths of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison or Abraham Lincoln.

While the movers and shakers in the party's congressional caucuses may struggle with the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the essential premises of the first Republican president, they can quote chapter and verse from the Russian-born writer who William F. Buckley once decried as a purveyor of "ideological fabulism" with a "scorn for charity."

Rand's books serve as an ideological touchstone for a new generation of Republican politicians who have built their politics around the writer's cold delineation of distinctions between idealized "makers" and disdained "takers."

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, the party's 2012 vice-presidential nominee, peppers his remarks with Randian references and once admitted, "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand."

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann employed the Rand lexicon  during her 2012 presidential run. California Congressman John Campbell gives interns copies of Rand's opus, Atlas Shrugged, while House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, tweets: "Still reading Atlas Shrugged -- it's quite the read."

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says he's really a "Randy" -- not a namesake of the author. "But," he adds, "I am a big fan of Ayn Rand. I've read all of her novels."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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