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Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 in Politics | 9 comments

In Romney-Ryan, Conservatives Get Their Man



WASHINGTON – Voters aren’t driven by a vice presidential pick, even if conservatives are slathering their primary wounds over his choice, which Mitt Romney expected. But policy just took center stage with Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, so whatever focus was on Pres. Obama’s first term just shifted to something broader. The choice of Paul Ryan isn’t simply about the base either, because Mitt Romney is betting they’ll do just about anything to keep Pres. Obama from winning in November. It’s also not a gift to Democrats, who are convinced Ryan augments Romney’s rich man, kill entitlements as we know them, it will be a high time for the wealthy platform. But they make their case in the web ad above. And Paul Ryan will not cost Mitt Romney the election in November, which he is very capable of losing on his own, as he’s proven so far this year.

“When you put the two men side by side, the fact that they are white, Catholic, working-class guys just jumps off the page immediately,” said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine who has written extensively about class and cultural divisions in U.S. politics. Both Biden and Ryan exhibit an ease in personal encounters with voters that is lacking in Obama and Romney, neither of whom is likely to be mistaken for a natural backslapper and flesh-presser. – In Ryan pick, echoes of Obama’s selection of Vice President Biden

We can talk about Paul Ryan wanting to suck the life out of Planned Parenthood, supporting offensive “personhood” bills, and that his entitlement schemes are a disaster that impact women especially, which I’ve written about before, with the list longer than this on women’s freedoms, but this won’t be an election about that, nor will it be an election about gay rights, on which the Republican Party has an abysmal record. That Mitt Romney basically believes the same things as Mr. Ryan on these issues is a litmus test for every Republican in power today.

In fact, everything Paul Ryan stands for is what the Republican base squealed about during the primaries as one candidate after another rose to the top only to fall away, because they were show horses that couldn’t make the pitch sing. Ron Paul got part of the way there, but the pure monetary conservatism that lives in his politics is poison to today’s right, whose military fetish is tied to Middle East interventionism.

Mitt Romney is an executive first, last and only. His presidential campaign has gone from bad to ugly and sometimes down right dismal and has been in trouble all year long. He’s been thrashed by Newt Gingrich, a philandering womanizer, Rick Santorum, who was trounced in the last election he was in, Herman Cain, a nobody, and just about everyone else, in a year where the Democratic incumbent is liked, but vulnerable, because he hasn’t had an economic message for four years. But Romney’s campaign messaging, delivery and execution has failed so thoroughly that in a race he should be leading he’s losing.

Reading all the Romney reviews has been amusing and just about every one of them misses the most important point.

When Pres. Obama was elected in 2008 he came in with a Democratic majority, the press and the world at his feet and everyone believing that conservatism was dead. Remember the headlines? Try Andrew Sullivan, an Obama loyalist, on for size, circa February 2009, not long after Pres. Obama was inaugurated (bold added):

I do not agree with the headline on Sam’s piece “Conservatism Is Dead.” I do agree that the current conservative movement deserves to die; and that the Republican party deserved the massive defeats it just received. But I do not believe the conservative temperament in politics can ever truly die. it is part of human nature, nurtured to a degree of sophistication in Britain and America that is too useful to lose. I see more of it in the Obama administration right now than I do either party in Congress. This is a conservatism of no party or clique. But it is conservatism.

The Sam to which Sullivan refers is Sam Tannenhaus. Jon Meacham, when he was still at Newsweek, interviewed Tannenhaus, who said this about conservatism back in 2009:

The Republicans, so intent on thwarting Obama, have vacated the field, and left it up to the sun party to accept the full burden of legislating us into the future. If the Democrats succeed, Republicans will be tagged as the party that declined even to help repair a broken system and extend fundamental protections—logical extensions of Social Security and Medicare—to some 46 million people who now don’t have them. This could marginalize the right for a generation, if not longer. Rush Limbaugh’s stated hope that Obama will fail seems to have become GOP doctrine. This is the attitude not of conservatives, but of radicals, who deplore the very possibility of a virtuous government.

Tannenhaus wrote an essay for The New Republic that is no longer available, but which RightwingNuthouse excerpted, so I can provide a short snippet below:

But, if it’s clear what the right is against, what exactly has it been for? This question has haunted the movement from its inception in the 1950s, when its principal objective was to undo the New Deal and reinstate the laissez-faire Republicanism of the 1920s.

Ah, that part in bold. That is what William F. Buckley told Charlie Rose was the main thrust of conservatism, what it stands against. What conservatism is against was the heart of the movement, according to Buckley. It’s never been articulated what conservatism is for until the last few years, when the Tea Party started to rise.

Paul Ryan is their emissary. He is smart, articulate, and yes, extreme, at least to Democrats, especially when you look at his social views, which aren’t going to be the driving force behind the majority of people’s vote in November. Paul Ryan also represents the fulcrum of what the United States faces today, because our economy, beginning with the banks, is ruined. Yes, ruined, because another calamity is coming, so say people a lot smarter than I am on economics, starting with Neil Barofsky.

This by no means is indicative that Mitt Romney can win, because his political gifts are marginal. But he was smart enough to know that today’s right, which runs the Republican Party, is embodied in Paul Ryan who is the first person to explain modern conservatism and what it stands for, aka right wing extremism, in body, mind and spirit. You could say he’s the right’s 21st century version of Ronald Reagan, who couldn’t be elected today, because the Republican Party now is much further right than Reagan ever was.

This is the reason conservatives believe in Ryan, because they’ve never heard anything articulated like he’s done it. The American Enterprise Institute and other right wing think tanks might have written the manifesto, but no one could sell it before.

Paul Ryan has not only taken AEI’s playbook and run with it, he’s sold it to Republicans, conservatives, the Tea Party and some independents, with Mitt Romney smart enough to understand, as any good spokesperson does, see Ronald Reagan, that he needs the zealots engaged to ascend to the presidency.

David Frum thinks the pick of Ryan is all coercion and makes Romney’s job harder, Russ Douthat agrees. Nate Silver thinks it was because he was losing. William Saletan will vote for Obama, but sees the future in Ryan, because our economy is killing us and that will resound beyond this election. Major Garrett is a reporter and writes that Team Obama thinks Ryan will help drive their narrative home (see the video at the top). Michael Tomasky compares the new ticket to “Thelma and Louise,” no hyperbole there at all. Ezra Klein and Noam Scheiber come to similar conclusions, somewhere from Ryan helping to diffuse the blame if Romney bombs and being Mitt’s shot at history, both “selfish and selfless.”

Then Jonathan Chait says it’s Ryan’s party now, which means Romney’s freudian slip in introducing him as “the next president of the United States” was actually telling the truth.

Finally, we’re getting there.

Mitt Romney didn’t get to be a man on his way to billionaire status by being stupid. With no political compass, except to chart a course required to win with whatever talking points that will get him there, much like Barack Obama, Mr. Romney understands fully that as chief executive he doesn’t need to believe, but the people responsible for getting him to the top do. Because he’s seen their power and almost was taken down by it in the primary season. Seeing your own political death flash before your eyes has a crystallizing effect. Mitt Romney heard from the base what they’re against and sometimes it was him, with Paul Ryan reminding all conservatives what they are for today.

Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan because the Republican base earned it, demanded it and threatened to bolt at every step of Mitt Romney’s presidential journey toward the 2012 nomination. At every moment the Republican conservative base, while called every name in the book, demanded Mitt Romney’s fealty to the new conservative principles as set forth by Paul Ryan.

People can call it extreme. I’m a liberal and that’s exactly what I’d call it.

But it’s not just a list of what Romney-Ryan are against. It’s a litany of what they are for and what they would do.

There’s nothing in the platform or their economics on which I agree, but from the conservative catacombs of 2008 has come a movement so powerful that it has given a purpose to conservatism that it’s not had in decades. It’s an actual plan and it was carved step by step by conservatives as they put their candidates through the ideological cauldron until the salesmen that represent the ideals of the people got the pitch right.

Mitt Romney was having so much trouble that he picked the author of conservatism’s rebirth to help. It’s not the worst choice he could make. It was the only choice he had.

Pres. Obama can win this election. However, what a second term means for him and what it means for Democrats and especially progressives is nothing close to what the Republican base has accomplished by remaking the party in their image, which was validated when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan.


Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.