Representative Ryan and Dancing With The One Who Brought You

Many of my fellow progressives are excited at the prospect of Mr Ryan sharing the ticket with Governor Romney, seeing the shift in the campaign from a referendum on the president to a clear choice between two contending ideologies for America’s future. Obama for America Campaign Manager Jim Messina released the following statement in response to Governor Romney’s pick of Representative Ryan as his nominee for vice president:

“In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy. The architect of the radical Republican House budget, Ryan, like Romney, proposed an additional $250,000 tax cut for millionaires, and deep cuts in education from Head Start to college aid. His plan also would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher system, shifting thousands of dollars in health care costs to seniors. As a member of Congress, Ryan rubber-stamped the reckless Bush economic policies that exploded our deficit and crashed our economy. Now the Romney-Ryan ticket would take us back by repeating the same, catastrophic mistakes.”

You can see the enthusiasm with which the ground is being set. Me, I’m less sanguine.

The one thing about a prospective President Romney was the simple fact the governor has in his many years of public life yet to show any philosophical core, save only that burning desire to be president. And so I could always entertain the small hope that, well, who knows what he would do should he be elected? Among his many peregrinations there were even moments when he was a moderate. So, really, who knows…

But, one does tend to dance with those who brought you there, and if he succeeds and is elected, it will be because of the far right. And this selection telegraphs that he understands this.

Now Mr Messina frames the issues the campaign is now going to focus on. While he is of course running a campaign and wants to shade things to the advantage of his candidate, for me the sad thing is what he says is a simple statement of whats at stake.

Mr Ryan brings with him the core convictions that will, I’m moderately confident, be the governing principles of any Romney administration.

We’ve always been an oligarchic republic, with a heavy tilt toward the uber rich. For the past sixty years we’ve had real moderation of that with growing attention to a broader social contract, with the generality of citizens actually being the focus of government, or, at least a real focus of government. And during these years there has even been actual social mobility, the old are not automatically thrown into the gutter, and while far from perfect, pretty much everyone has had a shot at an education. With President Obama we even have the rough beginnings of something approaching universal access to health care in a rational way.

And it’s been very shaky in the past few years. The economy is in the dumps. I’m not one who completely blames the smart guys creating wild products based on real estate, I think nearly everyone actually believed real estate prices would forever and ever go up. But, the lack of oversight is remarkable, and I have no doubt it contributed considerably.

No doubt government regulation is a two edged sword. But, the truth of the matter is we haven’t had a great deal of it at the top. The rich have always had their way most of the time.

I’m not even against this as long as there really is a range of opportunity, of access to the tools to move up, and for those who fail, something more than hunger and misery.

And what are we getting in the Romney-Ryan ticket? Well, Mr Ryan is a radical libertarian, at least that is an economic libertarian, he seems happy enough to enforce his pre-Vatican II views about women and gays as social policy. The social agenda bothers me mightily, but it is the economic agenda that terrifies me.

My arguments with economic libertarianism are many. But mostly I find its more radical adherents, such as I understand Mr Ryan to be, are all about dismantling of what few protections those without personal power have, leaving the field to the truly powerful to do what they wish with the rest of us. They may even believe all they’re doing is forwarding personal freedom. But this is a smokescreen, intentional or not. We remove the protections we currently have, few as they are, we remove universal access to education and healthcare and pensions for the elderly, and what we have is a desperate mass of people who are little more than the tools of the rich and powerful.

For those who see Palin redux in Mr Ryan, this isn’t so. This is a smart guy, articulate, and who can sell his vision. He sounds reasonable. Even if his policies are in fact a call to the Gilded Age…

This election puts everything on the line.

And I worry for the republic, deeply,


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