Paul Ryan: GOP Darling, Romney’s Running Mate, and Terrifying VP Prospect

If you’ve so much as glanced at the news in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard that Paul Ryan is basically the most exciting thing to happen to the Republican party since Ronald Reagan. After a summer of what the National Review called “an audacious experiment to see if it’s possible to run a presidential campaign devoid of real interest”on the campaign trail, the announcement of Romney’s running mate has finally put some wind in the GOP’s sails.

Paul Ryan is currently the representative for Wisconsin’s first congressional district, and is serving his seventh term in the House of Representatives. He’s best known for introducing a radical budget plan in 2008, 2011 and then a similar one in 2012 which he called “The Path to Prosperity” and which many refer to as “the Ryan budget.” It proposed privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare, and restructuring the income tax. Ryan also describes himself as being deeply inspired by the writings of Ayn Rand and Objectivism; Ryan’s interns and staff are all required to read Rand (although Ryan denies being an Objectivist himself, claiming that as a Catholic he rejects it because of its atheism).

Paul Ryan is the kind of leader many Republicans had hoped to see emerge a year ago when the first candidacy announcements starting coming in. Instead, they chose Romney — a presidential hopeful who, up until now, has been viewed as little more than a lesser-of-two-evils option for the economically conservative voter — out of a field of lackluster candidates. Romney, when introducing Ryan on Saturday, mistakenly referred to him as “the next president of the United States.” Though he quickly returned to the stage to fix his blunder (“Every now and then I’m known to make a mistake. I did not make a mistake with this guy. But I can tell you this. He’s going to be the next vice president of the United States.”), Romney gave a glimmer of hope to a Republican base who’d all but lost faith in his cautious campaign.

Cheerful? Check. Unyielding? Double Check.

It’s Ryan’s particular brand of cheerful but unyielding politics that’s re-awakened enthusiasm among Republicans. Some attribute his energy and charisma to the generation gap separating the 42-year-old Wisconsin representative from his senior running mate, while others attribute it to Ryan’s hard-working attitude and self-made success. He’s been called an “intellectual leader” of the party by Romney and a “thrilling” addition to the race by both camps — Republicans because they now have an economic superstar who’ll put stats and budgets to the vague promises Romney’s made and Democrats because they now have someone making concrete claims that they can challenge.

It’s not just Ryan’s knack for laying the GOP’s plans out on the table that has Democrats excited. Some liberals can’t help but see Romney’s choice of such a solidly right-wing running mate as a desperate move by a campaign that’s rapidly losing ground. To them, only a candidate who’s resigned himself to a loss would do something as crazy as chose an ideologue as a vice president. But Salon‘s Andrew Leonard isn’t ready to break out the victory whiskey just yet. He’s more concerned about what the reality of a Romney/Ryan-led country might look like and what it means that their partnership has drawn so much support.

Because really, all this talk about Paul Ryan being a revolutionary is maddening. A revolution requires change; it creates progress. What Ryan wants is a giant time machine that’ll take us back to 1932. Ryan’s budget would end Medicare in favor of a voucher system that would remove “lowering healthcare costs” from the national to-do list and place that responsibility on citizens. It would eliminate over 1 million Pell Grants, the largest source of federal financial aid for college students, over the next 10 years. On top of cutting aid to low-income people and families, his plan would restructure tax brackets so that those same people would be hit the hardest. Ryan’s budget plan was even attacked by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the faith to which Ryan himself belongs, because of its zeal for leaving the poorest and most vulnerable out in the cold.

At a time when charities are strained to the breaking point and local governments have a hard time paying for essential services, the federal government must not walk away from the most vulnerable. While you often appeal to Catholic teaching on “subsidiarity” as a rationale for gutting government programs, you are profoundly misreading Church teaching. Subsidiarity is not a free pass to dismantle government programs and abandon the poor to their own devices.

via: off the charts

Lest you’re tempted to buy into the hype about Ryan being a “true conservative,” let’s just make it clear that his beliefs about a small federal government only stretch so far. He’s voted in favor of most anti-choice legislation, the Protect America Act and a Constitutional amendment that would criminalize flag burning. Though he’s received support from the GOProuders, he’s done little more than vote “yea” on an early version of ENDA to deserve it. Twice, in 2004 and 2006, he voted in favor of a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage. He voted in favor of a bill that would prohibit federal funds from being used to fight DOMA (while allowing that same money to go towards upholding it), against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act.

Ryan’s policies alone are disconcerting, but the branding of the Romney/Ryan partnership as “America’s Comeback Team” reveals a troubling lack of understanding about where the real power in America lies. Which is, of course, with money, with privilege, and with normativity. No matter how many articles you read about how bold or radical Paul Ryan is or how daring Romney is to choose a firebrand politician, he’s still a pretty safe bet. He’ll get votes. Some people will vote for Ryan simply for his economics, writing off his voting record on civil liberties because they’re “not single issue voters.” They’ll fail to consider that the luxury of treating social issues as secondary means that they’ve got it pretty good. Ryan’s not interesting or dynamic or new; he’s a powerful man who knows how to wield his influence. Let’s hope (and vote!) that we end up with more than that for the next four years.

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  1. Wisconsin apologizes.

    If you want to know exactly what Ryan’s “leadership” in office is like, you need look no further than his current home in the first district.

    The man has spent his time as a Congressman boosting his profile in Washington while his district has been falling apart, currently holding the dubious distinction of being one of the most economically distressed in the nation. More from our local alt-press:

  2. This was a really great article, very thorough and well done :) I’m glad ryan was picked instead of pawlenty or portman, they would have been much safer picks. killing medicare isn’t going to go over well with older americans, who the republican party desperately needs to turnout.

    • Yeah, when Ryan was picked with his hatred of Medicare, I was basically like “Oh thank you Republicans for handing us Florida!”

      I don’t know if Pawlenty or Portman would have been good because they lack the sort of personality that Romney needs from a running mate; Ryan might have that, but he has a host of other issues. I think that the smartest pick for him would have been Chris Christie for having personality and also being more of a moderate (compared to other Republicans, that is) who would help him appeal to swing voters. Or Marco Rubio, at least before all the investigations into him started.

  3. “Some people will vote for Ryan simply for his economics, writing off his voting record on civil liberties because they’re “not single issue voters.” They’ll fail to consider that the luxury of treating social issues as secondary means that they’ve got it pretty good.”

    Not to mention that ignoring everything else for the economics seems pretty much like the definition of a ‘single issue voter.’ They can’t even follow their own logic… probably because it’s not really logic. It’s making excuses and rationalizing. Ugh.

    • I can’t see how any swing voter who really looks at Ryan’s economics would vote for him based on that, though. His ideas are so extreme and impractical (for one, they would actually RAISE the deficit by a few trillion dollars – no surprise when you consider that all the things he’s cutting don’t actually amount to very much, but he leaves our massive, bloated defense budget intact…)

  4. This is fucking terrifying, but the one glimmer is that he’s so fucking terrifying that maybe some of the moderates will reconsider voting Republican. I can’t fathom how adding Ryan would sway someone to vote Republican if previously undecided or Democrat.

    • Yeah, and what’s really funny is so many Republicans don’t seem to realize this. His budget is so obviously extremist to people who aren’t already converted to Republicans, he’s going to lose them so many senior citizen votes because of his Medicare opposition as well as get young voters to the polls because he hates government financial aid, and yet Tea Partiers are crowing because he says what they like and they have no ability to see beyond that to the fact that he’s not a good pragmatic choice.

  5. the ayn rand bit is just so terrifying to me. and so unbelievable that people are okay with this, right? like, i know in the minds of the teapartyers obama sleeps with the communist manifesto under his pillow but objectivism is so scary and he can just walk around being like “fuck yeah, atlas shrugged” and people are okay with it?

  6. “Ryan’s policies alone are disconcerting, but the branding of the Romney/Ryan partnership as “America’s Comeback Team” reveals a troubling lack of understanding about where the real power in America lies. Which is, of course, with money, with privilege, and with normativity.”

    ^This. People talk about Romney being the kind of businessman that can pick America out of her economic slump, but when you get right down to it, he and Ryan couldn’t care less about the middle or lower classes. His interest is in propping up the wealthy. The chart with the tax cuts/ increases? Terrifying.

    • What’s funny about the businessman thing is that Romney crowed so much about how business experience is essential to leading a country and then he picks someone with no business experience as his veep…

      • It’s even better because Romney even said there should be a constitutional amendment requiring presidents to have three years experience in business, which Ryan doesn’t meet since he’s spent his entire career in politics.

  7. Oh, and whenever the Romney ads say something along the lines of “taking our country back”, I always think, “Yeah, they’ll take it back…to 1843.”

  8. What I don’t understand is… didn’t Republicans learn their lesson about a “pandering to the base” pick in 2008? And as much of a catastrophic failure as Palin was, choosing someone who pandered to the base actually made a good bit of political sense for McCain back then. He was viewed as a moderate (even though he wasn’t) with a history if bipartisanship, and so he could have attracted swing votes but was worried that his base was going to stay home on Election Day. And Palin did win him that base – the only problem is that because she was so stupid, inexperienced and extremist she also lost him a lot of his moderate appeal.

    Whereas, a “base pick” doesn’t actually make much political sense when it comes to what Romney needs right now. He has trouble appealing to swing voters AND to the Republican base, but we all know that the Republican base will come out in droves on Election Day because they hate Obama so much. That’s the nice thing about challenging an incumbent, rather than two new people running against each other. What Romney really needed was a more moderate Republican (and perhaps one with the “business experience” he prizes so much, which Ryan doesn’t have) to get him swing voters. Instead, he picks a master of Tea-Party talking points who gave us one of the most extreme budget proposals in recent history. Ryan is so far to the right that even Reagan would never have picked someone like him as running mate. It shows how much the Republican Party has been bought out by the Tea Party in exchange for any sort of actual political pragmatism. While the Republicans won a lot in 2010, we saw several cases that year how primary voters favoring a Tea Partier over a more moderate Republican caused them to lose the general; hopefully, this same warped “logic” that appeasing the Tea Party is more important than actually winning will bite Romney/Ryan in the butt this fall.

    But Democrats still shouldn’t underestimate Ryan. We need to go at this with all guns blazing.

  9. “They’ll fail to consider that the luxury of treating social issues as secondary means that they’ve got it pretty good.”

    THIS. so much. I’m so sick of hearing that I’m a “single-issue voter” because I vote on issues that MATTER to my life – reproductive rights, LGBT rights, etc. – but which happen not to be “economics.”

    Also, even when you vote on “economic policies,” they still trot this out because what they really mean is “voting Republican based on economics.” Ryan’s budget is extremist and would totally eliminate a lot of things that are essential to my well-being – like government financial aid and arts funding – but I’m not being “pragmatic” or “realistic” enough in these people’s eyes. Yet, a bunch of cuts to small programs that benefit a huge amount of people, but only make up a negligible part of the deficit, while lowering taxes for the rich and leaving the defense budget wholly intact is “pragmatic” and “realistic”?

  10. The most ridiculous comment I have seen in support of the Romney/Ryan ticket was from my aunt, posted on her Facebook. She said, “Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with this pair’s policies, but they remind me of my father’s generation of men. Clean-cut, family men.” WHAT? A) What does that have to do with anything? and B) What about Obama or Biden makes them not “clean-cut” or “family men.” The Obamas are basically the cutest family ever.

    I have been in a fight with myself for 3 days over whether to comment on her support of them, considering I posted a status about sending out Save the Dates for my legal-in-NY same-sex wedding and she “liked” it and said, “It’s about time!” Well, aunt-who-I-love-but-can’t-stand-at-election-time, if those “clean-cut, family men” you like so much win the election, I very likely will not be allowed to have that legal same-sex wedding you are so happy that I’m having.

    I also don’t understand how any woman, but especially a working woman, could vote for someone who basically doesn’t think she deserves the same pay for doing the same job as a man. Mind boggling, really.

  11. Thanks for the information. I was somewhat unreasonably demanding that my partner make the anti Republican case so you’ve saved her some work.

  12. Help us all if Romney wins :( What woman in her right mind would vote for these a-holes? I can just see it now, some Betty Crocker type Stepford Wife smiling along side her jackass husband voting for Romney. How disgusting.

    • In the suburb where I grew up, there were a lot of women who literally told my mom when she’d try to talk politics with them, “Well, I don’t know anything about politics so I just vote how my husband tells me.” The Stepford Wife thing sounds like a joke, but they’re out there…

  13. Part of the choice of Ryan probably has to do with the fact that this is no longer about convincing people to vote Republican. According to last Friday’s Maddow Show, the margin of undecided voters is at the point now where it was in OCTOBER of the last election. Which means that, at this point, it’s about rallying your base and getting out the vote, not convincing new people over to your side. So they’re not hoping that Ryan will swing swing voters – there aren’t enough swing voters left to care about too badly. They want the energy and enthusiasm of Ryan supporters to get out the vote.

    So that means, those of us who are scared of the Romney/Ryan ticket must get out the vote for President Obama and VP Biden. This year’s election is going to be based on who can get more people to the polls. If you can, especially if you live in a swing state, see if there’s a way you can help get people to the polls. Or, I’ll put a plug in for what I do on election days – I work as a poll teller (the people who hand you your ballot). I can’t drive people to the polls, because I am part of a one-car family, but I can make sure that all the voters who come to me get treated fairly and given a chance to vote. (It’s super-fun, too!)

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