Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 6, 2011

THE POLITICAL PERILS OF RYAN'S RADICALISM, CONT'D.... Following up on yesterday's item, election analyst Charlie Cook said he's been talking to GOP "pollsters, strategists and veteran campaign professionals" about Paul Ryan's Republican budget plan. Given public opinion, the right-wing approach makes it "increasingly plausible" the GOP could lose its majority next year, Cook said.

With that in mind, some of Ryan's colleagues are feeling a little antsy.

The dramatic 2012 spending plan unveiled Tuesday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan amounts to a test of political will for the GOP's most vulnerable lawmakers, some of them only a few months into their maiden terms.

The decision before them boils down to this: Will they stake their seats on a risky vote to overhaul the federal budget, including the popular Medicare entitlement program?

So far, the most popular answer is: maybe.

Politico talked to a half-dozen vulnerable GOP House members -- all of them freshmen -- and none of them was prepared to endorse their own party's budget plan, at least not yet, and all said they want to spend more time reading it.

"Either a sudden surge of studiousness is sweeping through battleground districts, or these Republicans can smell the danger," the article noted.

They'd have to be oblivious not to. The American mainstream is going to be repulsed by Ryan's radical plan, and Democratic officials will be thrilled to tie it around the necks of every vulnerable GOP incumbent.

With Dems needing just 25 seats to reclaim the majority, a Republican adviser told Politico, "You have a couple dozen members who are going to pay a pretty serious price for this vote if they end up in a tough race.... It's not just cuts to Medicare. It's 'Republicans are ending Medicare as we know it.' That's not demagoguery. That is the case. This budget ends Medicare as we know it."

But there's one important angle to this that the article neglected to mention: the Ryan plan won't pass. It's simply impossible -- it might garner a majority in the far-right House, but there's no realistic way a Democratic-led Senate is going to eliminate Medicare and gut Medicaid, and the notion that President Obama would put his signature on this is folly.

This matters in context because it changes the nature of the pressure on vulnerable Republicans. They're not just being asked to support a radical revision of the American social contract, eliminating one of the nation's most popular and successful social programs for the elderly, they're also being asked to cast this vote knowing in advance that this bill will fail anyway.

Imagine being one of these GOP incumbent freshman from a competitive district. The leadership is going to ask you to take an enormous gamble (vote for a wildly unpopular, right-wing agenda, including the elimination of Medicare), with no possibility of actually accomplishing anything (the bill will die in the Senate). It's all risk, no reward.

It also sounds like electoral suicide.

Steve Benen 2:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

And if a Teabagger votes against this bill in the House, they get primaried for not drinking enough Tea!!!!

Posted by: Dave anderson on April 6, 2011 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

An enterprising Dem should bring this bill up for a vote!

Posted by: ack ack ack on April 6, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Electoral suicide!! That means they'll all sign on.

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

ack ack ack is on to something. This budget must be brought up for a vote. There is simply no way to polish Ryan's budget turd. Get Boehner and his gang to vote for it. The ads write themselves.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 6, 2011 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

There's a thin line between courage and stupidity. :)

Posted by: John Henry on April 6, 2011 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Which is why, as Digby and Dday point out, the Democrats will want to "compromise" and go with the Bowles-Simpson plan.

Posted by: Old School on April 6, 2011 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Congresscritters go HOME every weekend, allegedly to "meet with their constituents".
I wonder what the voters will tell them do with Ryan's Plan. (Something involving a place where the sun don't shine?)

Posted by: DAY on April 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want to be snide but Nancy Pelosi asked her members to do the same thing & most of them did. Many of those members are now ex-members and new teabaggistas have taken their place. So next year when the House becomes a Democratic led institution again.....repeat, rinse, repeat. Americans are fickle beasties.

Posted by: kindness on April 6, 2011 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Paul Ryan is a secret liberal agent, trying to destroy the Republican Party by promoting ideas that are so bad that Republicans will never recover.

All part of Obama's 10th dimension chess strategy.

Posted by: Ned Roberts on April 6, 2011 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think your logic is flawed. The majority of the country won't care about Ryan's budget unless it actually becomes law. The fact that it has no chance of becoming law means that it is *safe* to vote for it. When the democrats say "Congressman X voted to eliminate medicare", it won't have any effect beyond the usual campaign rhetoric, because elimitation of medicare will be something that didn't actually happen.

Now, the people who *will* care about the vote will be Republican primary voters, who will be angry if Congressman X votes against the budget. They are the ones who are judging the vote independent of the outcome.

So I would say that it's all reward, little risk when it comes to VOTING. Now, I do agree that there is considerable downside to Republicans if Rep. Ryan and his eliminate-medicare plan becomes the public face of the party. That *should* make vulnerable republicans feel very nervous.

Posted by: rae on April 6, 2011 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

They will all fall in line like the goose stepping little soldiers of the right they all are.

Posted by: robert on April 6, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want to be snide but Nancy Pelosi asked her members to do the same thing & most of them did. Many of those members are now ex-members and new teabaggistas have taken their place.

Actually, no. The faint hearted dems refused to take a stand on the expiration of tax cuts and some other budget issues.

Most of those guys are the ones that are gone.

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 6, 2011 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is, Congress has to pass a budget, eventually, or the government shuts down. Any budget bill has to originate in the House. That gives the Rs rather more leverage (or scope for blackmail) than you might expect, despite D control of the Senate and White House.

Posted by: rea on April 6, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

My cartoon showing Mega Corporations, the uber rich, and the ultra hard right wing dancing on the middle class, poor and elderly expresses my feelings Link: Celebrating Paul Ryan's Budget Gutting Medicaid and Medicare  on the subject. Phaëthon makes an appearance with a story about scorpions and mice.  In general I rather like it.

The point being, if you continue to make a greater percentage of the public  poorer, less healthy, and less educated how do you expect your culture to evolve, grow and flourish?  The dancers in my toon may realize this, but like the scorpion are incapable of doing anything different than what they do because of the constraints they are under.

These include for the The Mega Corps short term gain, for the über rich protecting their income sources, for the ultra right it's their rigid ideology.

My solution is tax them and spend the money on good projects which pay good money to good people for a good days' work. A massive transfer of wealth to the upper classes does nothing for society.  Trickle down was an experiment which did not work.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 6, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is the problem with liberals. That they always are considering the counter argument. It is not their job to lay out the opposition's argument. I don't think that I have ever seen conservatives take the counter argument. If they have, it has been so rare that I cannot remember it. Conservatives know that once you state a counter argument, people may consider it valid-which defeats the point. In a high Lincoln Douglas debate, taking the counter point may be acceptable, but in harball politics it muddles the message, leading to "even the liberal, X says that Ryan has a point. Why don't liberals understand this?

Posted by: Live Free or Die on April 6, 2011 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

"It also sounds like electoral suicide."

IMO, it sounds like music to my ears.

Just remember, these Gray Old Plutocrats are very, very smart. Just because their budget is doomed, doesn't mean they have no plan. If the economy is still in the tank next year the failure of their budget may actually be a bonus point for them. Certainly they will do their best to keep the economy down and unemployment up, as it is in their best interest to do so.

If the economy is as bad as (or worse than) now they will repeat over and over, "The Democrat Party is destroying our nation, if they had not disregarded our budget we would be on the way out of this mess," and gullible voters (especially in the center) with their 5-second goldfish memory will fall for it. Again.

Our best chance is to go on the offensive right now, blasting the Right's talking points to hell one at a time, starting with the Trickle Down effect. The facts are on our side. Bipartisanship is NOT on our side, nor on the side of the American people as a whole. Not right now, not with one party being driven by zealots and aristocrats.

Our leaders need to fight, and fight hard. They aren't fighting for the future of their careers or of our Party. They are in a fight for the future of America. This is a fight that we can win, and I hope that Obama and the Congressional D's will throw down like Mike Tyson in his prime. I won't hold my breath, but I will keep hoping.

Posted by: Mitch on April 6, 2011 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

[...] a Republican adviser told Politico,[...] It's not just cuts to Medicare. It's 'Republicans are ending Medicare as we know it.' That's not demagoguery. That is the case. This budget ends Medicare as we know it."

Which is, *for Democrats*, the perfect shouting point. Too bad it's a *Republican* who's savvy enough to be saying it and saying it quietly.

Posted by: exlibra on April 6, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Which is why, as Digby and Dday point out, the Democrats will want to "compromise" and go with the Bowles-Simpson plan.

Posted by: Old School

For Gawd's sake don't say that out loud!

It's worse than saying Voldemort.

Posted by: Trollop on April 6, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

I smell the need for an up-or-down vote.

Posted by: dp on April 6, 2011 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

I fear Obama will say something like he can't support everything in the Ryan plan, but he welcomes fresh new ideas and is looking forward to working together to achieve a bipartisan result. Bleh.

Posted by: jeri on April 6, 2011 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

@jeri

That's exactly what Obama will say, unfortunately.

Sometimes I feel as if "Change we can believe in" was, for Obama, simply about trying to be "post-partisan."

Unfortunately the other side is anything BUT post-partisan.

Our dear President likes to negotiate in good faith, to seek bipartisanship whenever possible, and to come to the table with the best of intentions.

Hm. For some reason I have AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" in my head now. Funny how that works...

Posted by: Mitch on April 6, 2011 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure that political suicide scares Republican freshmen as much as it does most DC careerists. They see themselves as being on a sacred mission, and if fulfilling it requires self-immolation, that's all the better. They're citizen martyrs!

That just means that they appear to lack the restraint which self-interest usually imposes on policy-making. But who knows how much they may come to like being called "Congressman" and receiving attention and deference they have never experienced before? One day we may hear them speaking earnestly of "constructive compromise." Then we will know that they have settled in.

Posted by: tamiasmin on April 6, 2011 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let's remember the last time something like this was tried: Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security. Republicans controlled both houses, but it didn't even come up for a vote because public opinion was so opposed to it.

History may not repeat itself. Maybe so many more Republicans are ideologues instead of pragmatic problem solvers, and maybe enough other Republican House members fear primary challenges from the right, that this budget proposal really will come to a vote (after all, some budget proposal has to be voted on eventually) and even pass. But I wouldn't be surprised if this one gets scrapped, either. It's just hard for me to tell how much the Tea Party tantrums will matter.

Boehner has repeatedly called for an adult conversation on these issues. I think that conversation has to take place with his Tea Party wing before he can have it with the Democrats.

Posted by: dsimon on April 6, 2011 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

some of Ryan's colleagues are feeling a little antsy.

THE WORM HAS TURNED !


Posted by: Joe Friday on April 6, 2011 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK
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