Political Animal


July 30, 2012 11:06 AM Ryan-Romney

By Ed Kilgore

During the long rise of the U.S. conservative movement, every time it appeared a breakthrough victory was in sight, a frustrating defeat occurred that was invariably blamed on circumstances that had nothing to do with the conservative ideology itself. Goldwater lost in 1964 because of national mourning over John F. Kennedy, and LBJ’s diabolocal ability to exploit it. Nixon turned out to be a traitor who very nearly ruined the GOP “brand.” Reagan’s bold plans were cramped by a recession caused by his predecessor. The 1994 “Revolution” was partially coopted by an amoral member of the opposition, and partly destroyed by the personal weaknesses of GOP leaders. And George W. Bush, as we have been told repeatedly since 2008, “betrayed his conservative principles” and thus invited economic and electoral disaster.

Now, many conservatives believe, the great gittin’-up morning is finally here, or will arrive on November 7 when Barack Obama is defeated and Republicans also take over control of both Houses of Congress. And who will their leader be in the long-awaited effort to roll back three-quarters-of-a-century of legislative and judicial “activism” and cultural “relativism” that has all but destroyed the country? Mitt Romney? No, no, a thousand times no! Romney will enable the revolution, because he has no choice to do otherwise, but The Leader’s identity is pretty obviously Paul Ryan.

Ryan’s role in conservative history is nicely underlined in Ryan Lizza’s latest piece on the Wisconsin wonder boy for the New Yorker. It’s been all but forgotten that Ryan was one of the major forces behind George W. Bush’s 2005 Social Security privatization plan, which most non-ideological observers regarded as a terrible squandering of the political capital Bush took out of his 2004 re-election victory. And it’s nearly been forgotten that the quasi-universal acceptance of the Ryan budget by today’s Republicans was not initially a foregone conclusion: by and large, GOPers did not campaign on it at all in 2010, and as recently as last year, most political professionals considered it a toxic swamp of unpopular proposals and a Democratic oppo-research wonderland. But in Lizza’s account, the direct criticism of Ryan in Obama’s big “budget speech” in April of 2011 all but destroyed internal GOP resistance to his budget:

Two days after the speech, despite some desperate appeals by Republican pollsters, Ryan’s plan passed the House of Representatives, 235 to 193. Only four Republicans voted against it. Ryan told me that the class of Republicans elected in 2010 was transformational. “Usually, you get local career politicians who want to be national career politicians,” he said. “They’re more cautious. They’re more risk-averse. They’re more focussed on just reĂ«lection.” He went on, “This crop of people who came up are doctors and dentists and small-business people and roofers and D.A.s. They’re not here for careers—they’re here for causes.”
Whatever benefit the White House had seen in raising Ryan’s profile, his increasing power, and his credibility as the leading authority on conservative fiscal policy, soon made his imprimatur essential for any Republican trying to reach a compromise with Democrats. Ryan helped scuttle three deals on the budget. He had served on the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission but refused to endorse its final proposal, in December, 2010. When deficit negotiations moved from the failed commission to Congress, Ryan stuck with the extreme faction of the G.O.P. caucus, which withheld support from any of the leading bipartisan plans. In the summer of 2011, when a group of Democratic and Republican senators, known as the Gang of Six, produced their own agreement, Ryan’s detailed criticism helped sink it. And, also that summer, during high-level talks between the White House and Republican leaders, Cantor and Ryan reportedly pressured Boehner to reject a potential deal with President Obama.
Ryan had aligned himself with Cantor and the self-proclaimed Young Guns, who made life miserable for Boehner, their nominal leader. They were the most enthusiastic supporters of the Ryan plan, while Boehner had publicly criticized it. Cantor’s aides quietly promoted stories about Boehner’s alleged squishiness on issues dear to conservatives, and encouraged Capitol Hill newspapers to consider the idea that Cantor would one day replace Boehner. As the Republican negotiations with the White House fizzled in the summer of 2011, Barry Jackson, Boehner’s chief of staff and a veteran of the Bush White House and Republican politics, blamed not just Cantor, who in media accounts of the failed deal often plays the role of villain, but Ryan as well.
“That’s what Cantor and Ryan want,” Jackson told a group of Republican congressmen, according to Robert Draper’s recent book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do.” “They see a world where it’s Mitch McConnell”—as Senate Majority Leader—“Speaker Cantor, a Republican President, and then Paul Ryan can do whatever he wants to do. It’s not about this year. It’s about getting us to 2012, defeating the President, and Boehner being disgraced.”

In this vision of the very immediate future, Mitt Romney is pretty much an afterthought. His public promises to support Ryan’s budget, combined with the ability to enact it with just 218 House votes and 50 Senate votes (plus a vice-presidential tie-breaker) means that Grover Norquist was exactly right back in February when he brushed aside conservative concerns bout Romney by saying:

All we have to do is replace Obama. … We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.

So thanks to an improbable—but to “movement conservatives,” providential—alignment of circumstances, including an economic meltdown, the election of a president who represents a visceral cultural threat to millions of Americans, the full unleashing of ideological money, and a bad presidential field that produced a weak candidate who promised his party’s commissars anything they wanted for the opportunity to get into the Oval Office, the Big Moment may have finally arrived. But Lizza is entirely correct. If you want to understand the direction of the country over the next four year in the event of a GOP victory, forget about Romney. Pay attention to Ryan.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • DAY on July 30, 2012 11:30 AM:

    They say that we get the government we deserve.
    A post over the weekend on algebra convinces me that Americans don't do math, so yes, the Ryan Budget looks like it may be coming to your house in 2013.

  • stormskies on July 30, 2012 11:33 AM:

    And the mindless, cretin like, Repiglican minions cheer on ... motivated only by the the need to win at all costs .. unaware of the actual reality that Ryan would create for even them, and then when it happens will blame anyone but themselves ........

    These 'humans' are simply mentally disabled from birth .. permanently crippled by their own simple minded stupidity ..

  • Gandalf on July 30, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Storm that's one of the great mysteries of the modern world. Why americans will vote against there own best interests. Have we really gotten that stupid as a country?

  • steve on July 30, 2012 11:45 AM:

    who is behind Ryan?

  • June on July 30, 2012 11:46 AM:

    I have a feeling conservatives' "gittin-up morning" come November 7, is going to feel much the same for them as their "gittin' up morning" when they thought they would be dancing in the streets over the Supreme Court's individual mandate decision.

  • stormskies on July 30, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Gandalf...........it is truly staggering isn't it ? I really can't think of any other population of peoples in any other country that is this stupid ... I have lived in about 30 countries in my life .. and I have yet to encounter one this fucking stupid ...

  • Peter C on July 30, 2012 11:58 AM:

    When good people do nothing, bad ones like Ryan will do all they can to take advantage of it. In 2010, good people were not paying attention and we're suffering for it.

    Ryan's plans are odious; when people know about them, they hate them. It is our job to brand Ryan as a huckster. Perhaps we could find a good challenger for his district?

    We need to fight harder.

  • T2 on July 30, 2012 12:00 PM:

    And if Obama wins, we'll see four more years just like the last four....lock-step Conservative Republican obstruction and de-evolution. They will actively work to deepen the economic tailspin. They'll become even more radical and by 2014 they will already be pushing millions of dollars of Citizens United money into ads telling us that only Paul Ryan can "take our country back" in 2016.

  • jim filyaw on July 30, 2012 12:21 PM:

    i'm almost to the point that i wanta say, 'bring it on!'. giving the keys to government to the likes of ryan, demint, cantor, jindal, and the rest of the teabag loonies unhindered by a gutless chief executive might be the only way to get the great mass of dimwits to open their eyes. i suspect that if it comes to that, they are going to find out that there are things they hate worse than a black president, abortion, sharia law, and gay marriage, things like paying granny's medical bill, trying to stretch a paycheck while new biltmore mansions are going up all around the country, and waving goodbye to sons going off to fight mitt's new wars.

  • jjm on July 30, 2012 12:38 PM:

    We should really resist sentiments like those of @jim filyaw: I understand them, a kind of let's get this boil lanced kind of feeling, but really. You do not want to live under their regime, believe me.

    Once people get beaten down it takes a very, very long time for them to pick themselves up enough to fight their oppressors. Go to any small town that is dominated by one powerful banker or politician and see how the people they've harmed the most almost literally bow down to them.

    The GOP has always structured itself along these lines: make 'em suffer enough, and they'll NEVER rebel.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 30, 2012 12:41 PM:

    Storm that's one of the great mysteries of the modern world. Why Americans will vote against there own best interests. Have we really gotten that stupid as a country?

    They're not voting against their self-interest, they're defining their self-interest in a different way, where economic security plays second fiddle to issues of class, race, and tribe.

    Attempts to get them to think about self-interest in purely, or mostly, economic terms may actually backfire, since they risk coming off as mere bribes, or suggestions that what they perceive as lower-order, more mundane, considerations should trump eternal verities and the things that really matter.

    I don't think the level of immiseration needed to override these various kinds of solidarity as a voting criterion have even been approached yet. Times aren't that bad for enough people.

  • DAY on July 30, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Lots of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth here.
    But, how bad is it, really?
    More than 9 out of 10 still have a job (perhaps a crappy one, but you still are able to provide the Big Three- shelter, food, clothing)
    Your "freedom" has been drastically curtailed- Homeland Security, email surveillance, papers please- but there are no operating FEMA camps, or Death Squads.
    The GOP knows we have a consumer driven economy, and they will only push it so far. jjm says we'll never rebel. A fella named George thought the same thing, a few centuries ago.

  • SteveT on July 30, 2012 12:51 PM:

    Jim filyaw,
    I'm not as confident as you about anyone's eyes being opened. Republicans are masters at convincing low information voters to blame their woes on people who aren't like them -- public employees, Hispanic immigrants, beneficiaries of racial "quotas".

    Voters rejected Republicans in 2008 after they crashed the economy. But it didn't take the Republicans long to convince the LIVs that the Wall Street meltdown was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act, which FORCED banks to make loans to lazy, undeserving dark-skinned people.

  • PTate in MN on July 30, 2012 1:04 PM:

    This is such a depressing post! But steve asks a really good question, "who is behind Ryan?" The answer is pretty obvious: Ryan is another Koch brothers stooge.

    from wikipedia: When he was 22, "in 1992, Ryan became a speechwriter and a volunteer economic analyst with Empower America, an advocacy group formed by Jack Kemp, former education secretary Bill Bennett, the late diplomat Jeane Kirkpatrick, and former Representative Vin Weber of Minnesota." Jack Kemp, of course, also a Ayn Rand believer. Empower America merged in 2004 with Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a Koch funded operation. From this merger came Freedomworks, a right-wing advocacy group that identifies, trains and promotes conservative candidates who will carry out the Koch brothers bizarre right-wing agenda.

    If you look carefully at Ryan's wikipedia page, you'll see that he was the cute and popular scion of a small town family who have run a prosperous construction company for several generations. Ryan bounced between gigs at that company and volunteer positions for the conservative movement jobs (volunteer speechwriter, economic analyst, campaign director) until, no doubt groomed by Empower America, he wins a seat in congress in 1998, aged 28.

    This is their clear MO. Take someone cute, someone willing, give them a plausible resume, have them run for congress. Paul Ryan is the poster boy of how it works.

    Captcha: third try is lucky?

  • PTate in MN on July 30, 2012 1:10 PM:

    jjm: "We should really resist sentiments like those of @jim filyaw"

    Agree! The really tragic thing about Republican non-thinking is that even when their policies fail, they reassure themselves that their policies saved everyone from an even worse disaster. They don't learn from their mistakes.

  • Rick B on July 30, 2012 1:12 PM:

    @stormskies & @Gandalf

    These guys are small town lawyers, dentists, doctors and so on. They are small town power people who resent the federal government forcing social changes down their throats.

    The growth of population in the U.S. since WW II has all been in large cities. The small towns run by these professionals and their preachers are dying or being incorporated as bedroom communities to larger cities. Cities don't accept the class status that the small towns demand. But the only enforcement is from the federal government as the civil rights movement happened followed by women and LGBT people all demanding that the status forced on them in small towns by people like Ryan be stopped.

    Industrialism and population growth leads to big cities and the end of small town culture. The people like Ryan who are big fish in small ponds hate being forced into the big lake where they no longer count because of who their father was. So they are fighting back. This is the same group who were the John Birchers and the anti-communists.

    Their world is dying. They want to fight back and stop the inevitable death of their world.

  • Rick B on July 30, 2012 1:19 PM:

    Whenever there is a terrorist who sabotague's government to force them to let him take over, there is someone like jim filyaw above saying "Just let them have it. It can't be this bad."

    Then the terrorists win and things get worse anyway.

    Don't let the terrorists/teabaggers/Republicans win!

  • c u n d gulag on July 30, 2012 1:21 PM:

    Ryan, the blue-eyed sociopath, is the one who, if given a chance, will lead Americans, carrying his flag and Bible, straight to Fascism.

    And if they do win, what will be interesting, and a possible source for hope for the rest of us, is watching all of the different Christian denominations start fighting one another for power, influence, and wealth.

    Ryan's a Catholic.
    Mitt, a Mormon.
    Cantor's Jewish.
    And a lot of the base are Dominionist Christian Evangelicals.

    Can anyone say, "Holy War?"

  • Mimikatz on July 30, 2012 1:22 PM:

    Ryan does have an opponent, a guy named Rob Zerban. You could donate to him and at least force Ryan to pay some time and money on his own race. Ryan is a very scary guy.

    And c m dicely is correct that GOP followers define self-interest largely in terms of identity politics ( although they do not see it as such) and thus don't think they are voting against their own self-interest. So do many relatively affluent liberals, btw.

    The first Captcha is not possible to replicate.

  • Mimikatz on July 30, 2012 1:27 PM:

    Sorry, that was Davis X Machina's observation about GOP followers voting on tribal and cultural self-interest for the people who will take their side against the shiftless "others" who want what they have. I knew it was someone who went back to the Kevin Drum days here.

    And evidently non-replicable symbols or smudges can be ignored and the post still makes it.

    But not unreadable letters.

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 30, 2012 1:36 PM:

    Rick B@1:12. Good analysis - big fish in little pond. Just like a fish out of water, they flop around desperately seeking air once on land. Demographics is changing the landscape and eventually, although not fast enough for me, will eventually negate the unlimited money from the old guard.

    The old white guard is more and more desperate to maintain their status. The frustration in the culture changing is also reflected in Scalia's increasingly public airing of his views on...well..almost everything. He is the poster boy for old angry white guy and a national embarrassment.

  • Hannah on July 30, 2012 1:43 PM:

    Ryan quote from article: "I want to show the country that we have a solution to get us out of the ditch we’re in, and to be proud about it."

    How nice that during W's term Ryan voted for all of the things that got us into the ditch, but apparently feels no regret nor admits to it. And now he wants the country not in the ditch but over the cliff, and will proud of it. Simply astounding.

  • SecularAnimist on July 30, 2012 1:51 PM:

    PTate in MN wrote: "Ryan is another Koch brothers stooge"

    That's all that needs to be said about Paul Ryan.

    He's a bought-and-paid-for corporate stooge who plays a "libertarian" on TV and spouts dumbed-down Ayn Rand bullshit to bamboozle the rubes.

    Stop legitimizing his fake, phony, trumped-up, pseudo-ideological con game by taking it seriously, and instead greet it with the guffaws of derision and contempt that it deserves. Emphasize the fact that he's nothing but a tool of the most ruthless and rapacious and reactionary corporate oligarchs this country has ever seen.

  • Texas Aggie on July 30, 2012 1:59 PM:

    It isn't so much that the wingnuts are voting against their own interests. i suspect that at least on some level they know that. What they think that they're doing is voting for the best interests of the country, and consider themselves to be patriotic for sacrificing for the country. If we are ever going to change their voting patterns, we need to show them how their votes and support are hurting the country and how badly the country is being hurt by their masters.

    The reason that they are such mindless followers is related to being authoritarians. They follow whatever their leaders tell them. They regard any questioning of their leaders as treason to the cause. Check out the research about authoritarianism on the internet.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 30, 2012 1:59 PM:

    Thanks, Mimikatz. Something bolloxed up with blockquotes....

  • Anonymous on July 30, 2012 2:03 PM:

    ...we need to show them how their votes and support are hurting the country

    We need to change their definition of 'country'. Their 'country' is tiny. It's certainly not "We, the people..."

    We're hard-wired to default to social groups of 150-200 people, max. It's an East-African-hairless-plains-ape thing. And it makes politics in the Aristotelian sense, at the scale of a nation-state, very, very difficult.

  • Peter C on July 30, 2012 2:17 PM:

    Allow me to join in the chorus of dissent against the tactic described by @jim filyaw, wherein we let the zealots show how bad they really are by giving them the keys again. We've tried that and the results were disasterous! That's what 2000 - 2006 were: two wars, torture, secret prisons, illegal wire taps - this is what they do! Honestly, there were days during the Bush Administration when I wondered whether it was time to sit down in the middle of the street.

    It's not that we fought and lost in 2010; it's that we didn't fight!

    Politics matters. It mattered in 2006. It mattered in 2008. And, it mattered in 2010. It will matter this year, and EVERY YEAR, until we change the political dynamic.

    We're figthing against Billionaires who have just been awarded the ability to spend without limit in order to buy the government they want. Currently, the Republicans are eager to sell. If they get their chance, the transaction won't take much time. We can't give them that chance.

    Citizenship is a hard job, but serfdom is worse. We don't have to try it to find out just how much worse.

    My crapcha says, "PosHeres honour!". It forgot a comma and an apostrophe.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 30, 2012 2:33 PM:

    Anonymous on July 30, 2012 2:03 PM:

    ... is me. More weirdness with blockquotes, and my name got eaten.

  • exlibra on July 30, 2012 3:13 PM:

    The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate. -- Norquist

    And they'll all get their marching orders (and their bills, all written out and ready to put forward) from ALEC. Which, as everyone should know by now, is bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers and their ilk.

    There's no way we'll ever be able to out-fundraise them. But, there's a chance we might outwork them.

    OFA is now designating every Saturday as a "day of action", registering voters. Yeah, I know it's bloody hot, but it'll be hotter than the hinges of hell, if we let them win. So, make contact with your local field worker, and volunteer. Set your table wherever there's lots of traffic (big grocery stores, swimming pools, Farmers Markets), and where the owners will allow it (in our area, WalMart won't, naturally. But Kroger's did as did Food Lion). Make a big sign asking "are you registered to vote *at your current address*?". The current address makes a difference; going to vote in a wrong precinct is giving the SOBs an opportunity for voter suppression (you won't be allowed to vote at all or, at best, will be allowed to cast a provisional vote which may -- or may not -- be counted).

    Like the First Lady says: Let's Move!

  • TCinLA on July 30, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Seeing the poll results on the front page of the Sunday LA Times, with Romney leading Obama on "economy" "jobs" and "taxes," was enough to give me indigestion all day. The stupidity of the "average American" is truly unbelievable. Mencken was right: "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Those of us who have enough understanding of issues to be able to participate in an argument (from either side) are likely no more than 20% total of the general population, most of whom have been effectively dumbed down from 50 years of "education reform" to the point the majority is functionally illiterate and unable to engage in critical thinking - just what The Rulers had in mind.

    Brave New World, here we come. I am starting to feel more and more like the Edward G. Robinson character ihn "Soylent Green."

  • TCinLA on July 30, 2012 3:36 PM:

    jjm said: We should really resist sentiments like those of @jim filyaw: I understand them, a kind of let's get this boil lanced kind of feeling, but really. You do not want to live under their regime, believe me.

    Indeed! The German Communists thought this was an idea that would work back in 1933. I think we all know how that one worked out.

  • bdop4 on July 30, 2012 3:44 PM:

    Dems need to run an ad starting with a picture of Rmoney, with voiceover describing all the nasty stuff in the Ryan budget while Rmoney's face transforming into a leering visage of Ryan.

  • Doug on July 30, 2012 8:22 PM:

    A loud second to ex libra's suggestion. It's obvious by what Republicans have been doing to suppress votes that, literally, the MORE voters that show up at the polls in NOvember, the LESS chance there is of a Romney win.
    I'm also looking forward to the MSM's attempts to gloss over the Ryan Budget after it's adopted by the Republican Convention.
    "Looking forward" in the sense as last week when I was "looking forward" to a dental appointment to have a tooth extracted...

  • Rick B on July 30, 2012 8:50 PM:

    "the MORE voters that show up at the polls in NOvember, the LESS chance there is of a Romney win."

    Exactly right! and the Repugs know it. That's why the vote suppression machine is working overtime right now and will continue through Nov. 8th. Look for stolen elections and votes cast but not counted. Overcrowded polls in Democratic precincts. Police stopping minority voters on the way to vote. Fraudulent lawsuits to get votes discarded. Etc.

    Romney can't win honestly. He can win. He mustn't win.

    The crooks are out in full force already.

    Captcha has gone insane.

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