Chapter 1: Atlas Shrugged Night

There was a crowd of liberal protestors outside the entrance to the Objectivist Club. I use the adjective liberal advisedly. There were no rough union enforcers or wild-eyed socialists, just a small crowd of young, beautiful college women who wanted the world to know that libertarian industrialists don’t care about environmental justice. There were a few bearded vegetarian men as well, but these were wan to the point of invisibility.

I carefully pushed through a scrum of protestors and entered into the smoke filled club feeling dispirited. I like being a man and doing the things men do like drinking booze, smoking cigars, shooting guns and telling raunchy jokes. There would be plenty of that tonight at the Third Annual Meeting of the Georgetown Chapter of the Objectivist Club. In fact a mono-culture of it. But as a young single male, a boy looking for girls, I couldn’t help but feel that the real party was behind me, at the protest. The situation reminded me of what my Dad used to say, “Like it or not, son, hot women have power because men want to be with thems. I’ve seen Navy Seals turned into Communists by a toned ass and shapely legs.” He was cautioning me against sirens like Jane Fonda, who we all know nearly destroyed America when she visited Hanoi in 1972. Best to not even think about Susan Sarandon, who is unmooring capitalism to this day.

I glanced one last time over my shoulder. In that lingering moment I caught the eye of an Hispanic beauty. She had lush kinky black hair that had been tightly tied back in an attempt to mimic severity. Severe she could never be – or at least not for long – because of her bright brown eyes, large, unfiltered smile and lithe, agile body which moved to the beats around her. As she led a chant I cast her a smile, attempting to channel Cesar Chavez, Che Guevera or at very least Bill Gates. I fear my smile was weighted down by wistfulness so it fell to the ground uncaught. The beauty looked away.

You rightly may ask why I would attend an Objectivist celebration at all. My answer is simple. Work. To advance your career in what Republicans call public service you need to reach out to hawks, nativists, fundamentalists and libertarians. These people are part of my milieu, we breath the same air, swim in the same swamp, one big happy rent-seeking family. I personally don’t give a shit about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but you can’t do better than an Objectivist party for Republican networking.

The club’s large carved oak doors closed with a thud. With the threat of liberal sirens behind me I made a bee-line for the bar. I was too sober to engage in conversation, so while I waited to be served I contented myself by listening to the conversations around me. To my right, an intense congressional intern flourished a copy of The Fountainhead, while exhorting his buddies to dynamite a housing project.1 Metaphorically dynamite, I mean, by withdrawing federal funding. Not with dynamite, the way an actual Ayn Rand hero might do. To my left a foreign policy wonk was holding forth on the hotness gap. I couldn’t determine whether he was making sexual or military references (words like penetration and pincers figured prominently). I didn’t particularly care. There was nothing here for me. With a tumbler of Maker’s Mark in hand I began to mingle.

I was relieved by the sight of a man wearing a green, swallow-tailed jacket and white top-hat. It was my crony, Laurence de Ponce Nez, who was engaged in conversation with a group of conservative notables. Ponce is an excellent companion at these events because he knows everyone; I was pleased to join his group.

The first luminary he introduced me to was this turtle-headed man named Mitch McConnell, who you may know as the Senate Majority leader.

McConnell looked like he had put his torso on upside down, resulting in his anus being where you’d expect to find his puckered mouth. The outcome was much as expected – lilting words that flowed like brown effluent. Even though my father is friendly with McConnell because of a shared interest in corrupting the judiciary, and Ponce’s family does shipping business with McConnell’s wife, we took a pass on that conversation.

We moved on, immediately encountering a prominent gambling magnate who looked like Jabba the Hutt except he had eels for lips. The magnate was handing out stacks of money as if hawking flyers for a comedy show in the Village. The Shively’s have feudal values, so profiteering from war is fine. However, we’re a little bit high Church, with a smattering of Puritan, so disapprove of gambling. I shied away. Ponce concurred: he placed his shoulder around my back and guided me toward a man he introduced as the Milwaukee County Commissioner. The man introduced himself as Scoot. He had the mean-nothing-to-everyman demeanor you see in professional politicians. And a rodent-like ability to gnaw into conversations, as I learned to my distress moments later.

Scoot’s wife was charming. She introduced herself as Antoinette, which I thought was an excellent name for a Republican wife: it let you know without asking where she stood on ‘let them eat cake’ issues. I complimented her many branded accessories; she graciously reciprocated to me about mine. I particularly liked the delicate way she raised her right pinky while she devoured the crustless white-bread sandwiches the Club was passing off as appetizers.

I was rescued from further conversation with Milwaukee’s finest by an unshaven man with pale green skin and bulging fanatical eyes. I say ‘I’ not ‘we’ because Ponce had abandoned me the moment he saw this seedy sock puppet of a man approach. His name was Grover and he didn’t drink, so I assumed his name-sake was the muppet rather than the Bourbon Democrat (Grover Cleveland). He was one of those tax pledge fellows. A crazy profession to people of my class, whose fortunes have been so greatly enhanced by manipulating government procurements in the pursuit of rent.

The last two members of our group were Limbaugh (no relation) and some pundit named O’Really. They were having a shouting match. Or perhaps shouting was how they normally communicated. Its doesn’t really matter because their bellows were of no consequence. Sadly – at least for those who abhor tranquility – the discussion between the two ended neither in tears nor bloodshed. The two pundits were shussed into silence by usherettes because it was time for Congressman Ryan to give the keynote speech. Ryan spoke briefly but passionlessly about paying back our donors by destroying the federal government tax base. This theme played well to the libertarian businessmen who were scattered throughout the crowd, less so to the swamp who were in the majority. I ordered a double Manhattan and rocked on my heels impatiently. Like all of the most successful politicians, Ryan never stops campaigning; he never lets down his guard. In this context it was impossible not to be annoyed. This wasn’t a crowd looking for reasons to cut social security; there was no need to feed us bullshit disguised as red meat.

Ryan sat down to distracted murmuring which was awkwardly enhanced by three pretty and enthusiastic spokes-models hollering and stamping their feet. The day was saved when a few very drunken Objectivists started lewdly cat-calling the spokes-models, which allowed Ryan to pretend to save face as he bee-lined to the K-street crowd.

The next conversational moment I flubbed without thinking about it.

I can only warn – not explain or understand – why no amount of booze and good company will stop keener libertarians like Scoot from thinking that because people toast Ayn Rand with free top shelf booze that means they want talk about her hero, John Galt.

Scoot brushed his unreal coiffure nervously with his right hand to signal his intention and then said to Ponce (who had been pushed by the crowd back in to our group), but in a voice pitched to include the entire group, “Monsieur de Ponce Nez, you have a European perspective. Who do you think is this generation’s John Galt?” Ponce ignored Scoot’s question, opting instead to return to the bar.

I should have drafted in his wake because the Milwaukee County Commissioner targeted me next. “Shively, who do you think is this generation’s John Galt? Perhaps the Cocks?”

The word Cock initially startled me. In Republican circles, mention of male genitalia is normally confined to airport restrooms, the Page’s Lounge in the House of Representatives, and meetings of the more bawdy chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. After a head slapping moment I realized that Scoot was referring, not to penises – though he looked like a Japanese food-art version of one – but to the Cock brothers. You probably know them. They have businesses that make billions from disposable things like paper cups and ecosystems. And loom large in this story, as you shall see.

I looked at Scoot meaningfully in an attempt to buy myself some time before I replied. I inhaled and then neutrally said, “I think all Republicans should be asking what we think of the Cocks.”

Scoot acknowledged my remark as if it had content worthy of a follow-up question.

And follow-up he did, “What about this group here? We are all luminaries of the conservative movement. Do you think any of us is this generation’s John Galt?”

This was like confessing to your Catholic priest that you decided to become a proctologist after your sexual experiences as an altar boy. Awkward but not impossible. There were conversational access points. I gestured to the males in our group and then said, “You men – and I mean you too Scoot when I talk about men – have talents that would be sorely missed if you, like John Galt, went on strike.”

“What strike?” two dozen curious onlookers asked simultaneously, including at least six reporters.

And there you have it. My careless words started an Objectivist labor action.

1 Grover Cleveland, 22nd President of the United States

 

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