The Ryan Choice as VP: A Bold Move or a Palinesque Blunder?
This past weekend, the presumptive Republican nominee for this year’s presidential elections’ VP search came to somewhat of a hurried end with Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as the guy to complete the GOP ticket.
As ought to be expected, this choice was immediately heralded by mixed reviews.
Some praised it as bold or daring; an undeniable admission of Ryan’s credentials as a dyed-in-the-wood conservative ideologue; a sentinel who had spent much of the last ten years crusading for an approach to budgeting and governance that most American’s view with a great deal of suspicion and trepidation.
Others received the news with intense elation and optimism but interestingly for varied, even diametrically opposed motives.
Conservative talking heads couldn’t conceal their euphoria for finally getting someone on the ticket with unimpeachable qualifications; someone that they could truly call their own.
But Democrats were no less ecstatic for what some giddily referred to as the gift of “The Dream” opposition ticket; one which immensely enhances President Obama’s re-election chances by bringing his vision for the country in strident contrast with Romney’s.
Another mixed but smaller group of commentators received Romney’s choice a tad ominously; they saw it as inherently reminiscent of John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin four years prior---an unfathomable disaster that would assuredly energize the Republican base but equally seal Romney and Ryan’s chances of ever becoming president.
Though still largely relatively unknown by the American mainstream, Paul Ryan had in a relatively short period of time, managed to eke out an enviable “rock star” status within the Republican establishment in Washington.
The seven-term Congressman from Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district championed the push to radically transform America’s social contract with the poor and elderly by re-engineering its core tenets.
Starting with the introduction in 2008 of his “Path to Prosperity: Roadmap for America's Future,” otherwise known as “The Ryan Budget,” Ryan has notoriously sought to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare and defund Medicaid and a host of other popular discretionary public programs.
Granted that Ryan’s plan has through many mutations since inception naturally undergone a few minor tweaks, it’s foundational impetus still remains the unwavering commitment to slashing both taxes for the wealthy/corporations and discretionary spending to levels and in ways that most people find objectionable.
The most recent version of the plan which passed the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives but expectantly died in the Senate in 2011, thus handing Ryan his most spectacular legislative victory yet, would transform Medicare into a voucher program, convert federal Medicaid payments to block grants and repeal “Obamacare.” It also offered “across-the-board tax cuts by reducing income tax rates; eliminate income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest; and abolish the corporate income tax, estate tax, and Alternative Minimum Tax.”
This, combined of course with his stance on traditional GOP “red-meat” social issues (abortion, homosexuality/the definition of marriage, gun rights, etc.), is precisely why Ryan is highly celebrated in conservative circles.
But this is also exactly why Romney’s presidential bid is in serious trouble.
Before Ryan joined the Romney ticket, Romney had been rightly cast as very much like the weather vane; he was for every imaginable position before he was against it.
Much as GOP right-wingers found this quite irritating and bewildering, it certainly afforded Romney a certain air of Teflon intractability. Beyond the fact that we knew him as the venture capitalist who raked in hundreds of millions of dollars with Bain Capital and also as the former governor of Massachusetts who ran the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, nothing else seemed to stick because Romney was all over the map on key issues of policy.
By selecting Ryan, there now was a crucial opening for Democrats to define Romney clearly and substantively. Romney and Ryan effectively became one.
Since Americans in overwhelming numbers oppose Ryan’s fiscal policy as it relates to tax cuts for the rich/corporations and a solid majority view Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid favorably, it is my firm belief that the legacy of The Ryan Budget would be the defining blow that ended Romney’s bid for the White House; try as Romney might to dissociate himself from the more unpopular or more controversial elements of Ryan’s plan, it will all prove too feeble and futile in the end.