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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The inevitability of a Ryan draft

I've heard others make the argument before, but none better than Dr. Krauthammer in these lines:

[J]ust because the Republican Party lost the [congressional] special election [in New York], it doesn’t mean it is completely a lost cause for the party going into 2012. Krauthammer said the GOP can make it a winning issue. But to do that, he said, it requires Ryan running as a presidential candidate to expertly explain his policy proposal.

“People are now writing, ‘Well Ryan — the boomlet for Ryan to a candidate is over,’” he continued. “I would say exactly the opposite. You now own this. Get the one man who can explain it, argue it and actually change minds on this. You need leadership on this or otherwise the Republicans are going to sink on this.”

I'd add this: The GOP needs Ryan promoting the Path to Prosperity from the GOP presidential nominee's position because otherwise, entitlements will not be reformed. The stakes aren't merely the GOP's success in retaking the White House, nor even the GOP's broader failure or success nationally in both federal and state elections, but rather our nation's basic solvency.

The rationale for Ryan's candidacy springs directly from the election result of 2010 that returned control of the House to the GOP. And lo and behold, we have a GOP Budget Committee Chair who's a grown-up, who's doing his job — who's leading. He is the most articulate and effective policy debater of either party since Bill Clinton when he was at his very best. And in fact, we've seen Ryan stand up for himself and his ideas quite powerfully in a head-to-head, no-teleprompter debate against Obama during the infamous White House Health Care Summit in February 2010. Friends and neighbors, that's what we call dramatic foreshadowing.

Since then, Paul Ryan has become the most consequential GOP politician in the country. We recognize our leaders by the fact that they're leading and, yes, being followed. As of Wednesday's Senate vote, more than 96% of the GOP members of Congress are on record voting for the Ryan budget, the Path to Prosperity. As was frequently exclaimed among the tractor-back philosophers on the prairies of west Texas whence I sprang, "Quod erat demonstrandum!"

It's just a question of whether and when people's perspective on the presidential election catches up with that reality.

I wasn't alive in January 1952, mere weeks before the New Hampshire primaries, when Eisenhower finally revealed that he was a Republican and permitted himself to be drafted for a run at the GOP nomination. There were other formidable candidates, including Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, Gov. Earl Warren of California, and ex-Gov. Harrold Stassen of Minnesota. But Ryan's position now seems to me like I think Ike's candidacy must have seemed then: The situation has chosen the man.

Posted by Beldar at 12:58 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink


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(1) steve made the following comment | May 26, 2011 9:55:54 AM | Permalink

Beldar: for someone who lives outside the Beltway, you've fallen victim to Beltway-ish thinking.

Ryan, the 'most consequential GOP politician in the country'? How many voters (forget about the public as a whole) would come up with Ryan's name if asked to name some GOP biggies? Ryan is a rock star among political groupies of the right, but he doesn't register outside that very small group.

Ryan 'leading'? Not if leading is defined as pulling the public behind him. There is no, I repeat no, public support for the specifics of Ryan's proposals. Furthermore, a good leader has to be able to articulate his view in a way that the next batch of followers (i.e., GOP candidates) can easily pick up and run with. Ryan, on the contrary, has come up with something that is above the heads of most GOP candidates and the mushy middle of independent, non-involved voters who are critical to election success.

The biggest argument against Ryan is that he is Chicken Little ranting that the sky is falling. Yes, the sky is falling, but America doesn't (and never has) respond in advance to problems, we much prefer to wait until we're kicked in the groin before we mobilize to attack the problem (WWII, terrorism, housing bubble, etc., etc., etc.) Until that happens, we much prefer to ignore the problem and push it off (if that wasn't the case, why wasn't the problem of government spending dealt with 20+ years ago?). Ryan may be just the person we turn to once everything comes crashing down, but until then the country is going to tune him out.

FWIW, I think one of Ryan's biggest shortcomings on the talk circuit (as well as most of the GOP) is that he talks about the sky falling in the future and in abstract terms. Per my above, that never works, we never respond to a problem that is off in the somewhat distant future. Ryan needs to start arguing that the sky has already fallen (at a minimum, it has started to fall), that government spending is the reason for why people's lives s**k right now, the reason their retirements are shaky, why their taxes are going up, why their home values are low, why inflation is driving up gas and food prices, and so on. He needs to personalize the problem, only then will he truly be able to mobilize the public to support him and his efforts.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | May 27, 2011 4:54:59 PM | Permalink

Steve, thanks for the comment, but I disagree with most of it.

"Consequential" doesn't mean "popular." Popular is important too, I'll grant you: My pro-Ryan and pro-Path to Prosperity blogging is my own contribution to that effort. (Thanks for contributing to it with your comment!)

And "leadership" is not reflected by public opinion polls, but at the electoral polls and, between elections, in the votes of our elected legislators. 96% of the GOP legislators are following Ryan's lead — if you think that somehow doesn't count as leadership, I'd be curious to know why. I know you can't believe our leaders should themselves follow public opinion polls, because that's circular and suicidal.

You have a poor opinion of the public indeed if you think they can't follow Ryan's logic in that video. Did you watch it? I think anyone capable of counting to 10, even using their fingers, ought to be able to follow it. It's five minutes long, and we have until November 2012 to spread its message. That can be done.

Things are crashing down now. We're running multi-trillion dollar deficits now. We aren't yet insolvent, but that result is already certain now if we continue on the path we're on now. We're being kicked in the groin every damn day. You want cataclysm and civil insurrection before we pick a serious candidate? I'd rather pick one now -- one who will lead us to solutions while they're still possible. If that makes me "Chicken Little," then yeah, well: Look, the sky is falling! Bwaaaak! Now let's prevent that from happening.

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