13 August 2012

Is Ryan relevant?

Unless Ron Paul has any objections, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will be Mitt Romney's running mate on the Republican ticket for the presidential election. Romney's selection of the budget hawk came at a moment when his campaign seemed to need a boost, since the candidate had been put on the defensive by Majority Leader Reid's wild charges about his failure to pay taxes. Tapping Ryan is a move clearly intended to energize the base, since the congressman's avowed commitment to deficit reduction and balanced budgets has endeared him to the Tea Partiers, who may continue to believe, despite demurrals already uttered by Romney, that Ryan's budget proposals would be adopted and fast-tracked by a Romney Administration. As ever, the Vice-President will only have as much power as the Constitution enumerates and the President chooses to delegate. Meanwhile, the overall short-term consequence of Ryan's selection may be a wash. The selection of a Republican from Wisconsin, the fount of evil in the eyes of progressives and union diehards across the country, should be a red flag for the Democratic base, who'll also be invited to believe, like the TPs, that Ryan will have more power in a Romney regime than is actually likely.

The columnist Kathleen Parker is probably right when she writes that Romney's choice of Ryan puts the economy back to the forefront of the campaign. As far as I can recall, Ryan hasn't staked out any controversial positions on social or cultural issues, apart perhaps from repudiating Ayn Rand after having once recommended Atlas Shrugged to subordinates. Maybe that will annoy Dr. Paul's followers, but overall Ryan doesn't strike me as a yahoo theocrat. Parker is hot to defend Ryan against the charge that he's no more than a boring white guy. Whether her comments are aimed at Democrats, who are probably glad that Ryan was chosen, or at disappointed Republican enthusiasts for Marco Rubio, Condoleezza Rice, etc., is unclear. It depends on whether Parker perceives the main objection to Ryan to be that he is white or that he is boring. If Ryan is seen as boring, Parker notes that Rubio can be rather boring as well, though their sort of "boring" isn't necessarily a bad thing to her. Her counter-model of a non-"boring" candidate is the hated Sarah Palin ("how's that winky-blinky thingy workin' for you?" Parker snarks), though she regrets that Palin has probably poisoned the well of women candidates for Republicans for the immediate future. If Ryan is seen as white, and if that is seen as a negative, Parker deems you a "superficial moron...check-boxing our way to idiocracy." Her perception, presumably, is that, post-Obama, the parties don't need to concern themselves with demographic ticket-balancing, and that a lily-white ticket doesn't mean that nonwhites are being excluded systematically from power. Unfortunately for her, a perception persists, despite the prominence within their party of people like Rubio, Gov. Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Haley of South Carolina, Republicans, as conservatives, want to keep power in the hands of an established group. You can't call yourself conservative in America and not expect your enemies to think that way of you. You may consider those enemies morons, as Parker plainly does, but when did name-calling ever decide an argument. The question is moot this year, since one candidate on the GOP ticket is indisputably a "minority," whatever his complexion.

Parker feels that dogmatism rather than bigotry is her party's major handicap this year. "The problem is that the party has allowed itself to be defined by a certain faction that insists on purity pledges that preclude the kind of flexibility shifting circumstances sometimes warrant," she writes, "Change isn’t always good, clearly, but rigidity can be equally damaging and alienating." She doesn't follow up on that observation to show that Ryan has that desirable flexibility. Doing so would have been helpful considering that Ryan was chosen in part to please his party's purists. Instead, Parker hopes that, however boring he may be, Ryan could help Romney win not just the election but alienated demographics ("'boring' African Americans, Latinos and even young voters") by presenting " a cogent, comprehensible plan to improve the lives of broad swaths of Americans who have little faith in the future." She may be right about that, but unless Ryan, Romney and Republicans in general can overcome their ideological aversion to promising improvements for everyone instead of insisting on individual opportunity with its swim-or-sink implications, I can't see them inspiring much faith in the people most skeptical toward Republicanism. If any of the party leaders could do that, some faith might be justified, since it would be a miracle.

1 comment:

Aaron Christiansen said...

I find it interesting that, after repeated denials by Ryan, incontrovertible evidence as shown that he asked for stimulus money. Something his teabagger supporters were all against. I guess that shows how hypocritical the teabaggers really are.