Why Paul Ryan as VP? You Win with an Energized Base

Why Paul Ryan as VP? You Win with an Energized Base August 11, 2012

I don’t claim to be a political expert, although I’ve followed politics ever since I could remember. I recall tracking Reagan’s win in 1980 when I was but a wee lad. I most enjoy thinking about the human behaviors and leadership patterns behind political decisions. Of course, I’m the guy who watches sports mostly to see the leadership dynamics of the team. Sorry. Can’t help it.

When I saw that Mitt Romney had chosen Paul Ryan as his VP pick, I had one thought: You win with an energized base. So how will this pick impact the base on both sides?

I admire Mitt Romney as a leader and have for many years. His success in business and the Utah Olympics are undeniable. As a student of leadership, I recognize and respect someone who leads well –regardless of whether I agree with them  on all issues. Hence my admiration for Clinton’s ability to lead change in many areas.

My initial concern about the selection of then Senator Barack Obama was that he would be a poor leader in over his head — without the humility to admit it. I feared that he would prove inept as the first African-American president and his failure would only fuel racial tension among racist people. My concerns seem to have been well-founded. I think many Americans are now thinking, “Mr. President, you’re a nice guy, but you’re just not getting the job done. Sorry.”

I have said for the better part of the year that barring some unforeseen national crisis, Mitt Romney wins in a mini-landslide. Romney simple gives the electorate a credible alternative, which is usually all that is needed when elections are referendums on unpopular sitting Presidents.

Energizing the base

Picking Paul Ryan helps energize the conservative base. To this point, Republicans have already showed a sizeable lead in motivation. For some, however,  especially those associated with the Tea Party movement, I think the motivation was largely to remove the current President, not necessarily to put Governor Romney in his place. In short, they would take just about anybody — even John McCain. (Well, maybe that’s too much of a stretch, but you get the point.)

Romney’s decision to pick Ryan gives them someone they can cheer for rather than just focusing on someone they can work against.

Most importantly, Romney’s decision signals to the base that he gets their concerns and is willing to act boldly on them.

And that is key.

The value of an energized base

Consider some historical patterns from a layman’s point of view:.

  • 1980: In the first election that awoke my political consciousness, people were tired of Carter. Reagan not only gave them an alternative, but a positive alternative that energized the base. The result? Epic landslide.
  • 1984: Reagan’s base still cheered him on because they actually liked him. On the other side of the aisle, Mondale just didn’t excite much energy in anyone.
  • 1988:  Bush 41 became the Reagan heir apparent though insiders knew that Bush was not the ideological twin. But he still had momentum riding Reagan’s coattails. Dukakis? Hard to motivate the Democrat base around him as he peeked out from beneath his helmet.
  • 1992. Here we saw clearly that a motivated base matters. Devoted fans of H. Ross Perot led the way. Clinton’s base was energized by both his charisma and the prospect of regaining the White House while the Republican base reluctantly supported the “read my lips” President. Well, some did.
  • 1996: A great American, Bob Dole never had a chance. The base never got behind him. The economy was thriving. It might not have mattered who the Republicans ran against Clinton, but Dole was the ideal candidate to not motivate the base.
  • 2000: I first discovered George W. Bush in an article I picked up in an airport in 1998. I told my wife then that he would be the next President. Why? I detected a likability about him, a leadership quality that drew people around to follow his lead. I compared that with the stilted Al Gore and saw energy and momentum all in the Republican’s favor.
  • 2004: Fortunately for the Republicans, Bush still had plenty of energy to ride since the economy was still going pretty strong and the memory of 9/11 and its implications were still fresh. And John Kerry? The epitome of de-energizing.
  • 2008: John McCain? Seriously? Of all the candidates in the field, he was the one who could have sucked the most energy out of the Republican base. Obama? The epitome of energizing the base with chants of hope and change. At least he was then, as an unknown with no track record.
  • 2012: Which brings us to this year. The President’s base is lagging. The whole country is feeling rather tired and becoming more convinced with each depressing economic report that the present path is not the right one. Romney does, in fact, bring an unfailing positive energy similar to what Regan brought to the show in 1980. But Romney is an executive leader, not an actor and professional communicator.

By picking Ryan as his VP, Romney first does no harm. Some have speculated that the Democrats will use this pick to scare seniors with threats of Ryan pushing grandma over the cliff. But they were going to do that anyways. So it hardly helps their cause much. Ryan has already been thoroughly vetted on the national stage so there will likely be no surprises.

It’s the economy, Stupid!

The Ryan pick will give yet another reason for the Republican/conservative base to get active and head to the polls while forcing the issue of the economy and federal spending front and center. If the election will pivot on those issues, Romney wins — if he and Ryan can paint a positive economic plan for the future.

If anyone can do it, those two can –the turnaround artist and the guy who can make a federal budget problem make sense in sound bites:

In short, Romney’s Ryan VP pick will further energize the Republican base in a positive way while not moving the needle in the long-term on the other side of the aisle. And once the VP debate is handily won by Ryan and his blue-collar roots connect with voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Wisconsin, it will look like a great pick indeed.

A final thought is that Ryan seems to unnerve Obama in a way that forces the President to make unforced errors. Remember the Stimulus interaction in 2009 that seemed to anger the President and the budget plan press conference to which Obama invited Ryan — only to publicly berate him? Poor leadership. Poor politics. Could one reason Romney chose Ryan be for his ability to unsettle the opponent and knock him off his game?

Momentum matters. The Ryan pick nudges Romney forward, especially in the Midwest, without giving the opponent any long-term openings to exploit.

Good choice — from a leadership perspective.

What do you think of Romney’s pick of Ryan as VP? How do you think it affects the energy of the base on either side? Feel free to leave your thoughts with a click and a comment here.

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  • jerry lynch

    Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the “Nuns on the Bus” rejected the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which it called “immoral” and “unpatriotic.”

    Ryan’s budget “rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That’s wrong,” said Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.

    Nuns on the Bus claims that the Ryan budget would raise taxes on low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and corporations, push families into poverty, and kick 8 million people off of food stamps.
    (Copied from “Ryan and the Nuns: Part Two”

    I am sure the above will definitely excite the plutocratic soul of the Republican base. This, plus Ryan’s growing ability to blatantly lie should be enough…if we add the billions of the Koch Brothers.

  • jerry lynch

    America is said to be a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” As Christian people we are to love our neighbor and enemy alike and care for “the least of these.” So, as a people in this land that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people” and we are to be judged by how we care for “the least of these,” it appears that the role this particular form of government should reflect for us is care for “the least of these.” Surrendering the country out of fear to a ruling 1% at the sake of “the least of these” does not seem to suit the Gospel, and that is what Ryan proposes.

    • Jerry,

      Always appreciate your comments. The coutnry is bankrupt. Medicare WILL fail under the current plan. To not change direction is to invite disaster upon “the least of these.”

      • jerry lynch

        To accept Ryan’s plan is to end medicare’s ability to securely guard for the health of seniors. Yes, changes need to be made but this privatization movement by the right is the objectivism of Ayn Rand: letting the needy fend for themselves at the mercy of The Bottom Line. Also, the country is not bankrupt: it suffers from Bush Tax Cuts, a trickle down that never happened and nearly ruined us.
        But if the country were bankrupt, as you said, further tax breaks to the rich is a solution? Clinton raised those taxes and the nation thrived. Ryan wants to repeat Bush in spades, and Romney’s plan is even worse in that regard (and most of his advisers in all areas are ex-Bushleaguers). Stimulus time and time and time again has proven to better the economy. All observations unequivocally show this to be true. So much so, it hhas always enjoyed bi-partisan support. Ryan blatantly lied about this fact and attacked the president’s recklessness, while three times asking for stimulus money and boasting how HE made the state’s economy better because of it.
        Chooisng blind partisanship with the country in this sad condition is not helpful. Ryan’s Plan has ruinoous faults. To first think to abandon the “least of thes e” in favor of the rich to “Right” the situation does not, to me, seem very Christlike.

  • jerry lynch

    I am a Dark Saint; I am not sure if I should say The Dark Saint. This is not initially my own observation: A Jesuit teacher in high school–who I used as a confessor, confidant, and tutor–was the first to observe a perplexing stark dichotomy. I happened to flabbergast him with a knowledge of scripture I had not yet read or studied for myself, familiar only, as most Catholics then, with a brief Sunday reading and homily, an interpretation my view seemed to flow against. But then there was the troubling aspect of my personality: I felt no personal bonds and was highly immature, quite childish in most areas of life. He gave up on me eventually. But by then, I had ceased to care.

    Stationed overseas, I got as close as I had ever felt to a person, the Chaplain of our base. Our discussions usually went long into the night about the Bible, something I had not read. One night, for the umpteenth time unable to quote a verse or even a book, he was naturally forced to ask if I ever studied the Bible. I answered directly: “Studied, no…not hardly: I haven’t even opened it.” We never had a decent conversation again. My two NDEs, in which he had once took much delight and hope, must be lies. He went on to forbid me entrance to the chapel during his services. As before there was hurt, yet I took my out-of-sync humanity to task. I simply did not fit. My bad!

    In Graduate School for clinical psycholgy, the Dean of Studies, a stalwart Feminist and New Ager, adored me…as an inspired clinician. All my classes got aces and extremely high praises. Not one of my professors had been so challenged and left feeling so inadequate. It was around this time that I submitted my insights to a popular American guru of Hindu thought, a so-called Zen Psychotherapy Journal in New England, and Christianity Today: all three published my writing, and the insights were basically the same (merely Jargon-adjusted). [‘What is richness to a Christian, is emptiness to a Buddhist.’]

    Yet she, too, eventually found me wanting as a person, holding the same value to any truly inspired voice: you must be other-centered. I felt no deep connection, no ties to individuals. I so deeply appreciated the resiliency, creativity, openness, and capacity to forgive of humanity, I thought it love, always assuming the Father was in there. This did not take us away from God but more securely made us children of God. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

    I have been easily one of the most destructive forces of nature in the lives of those close to me or passersby. I am a dirty, rotten, scoundrel, and beloved of God.

    My mother choose, after nine years of drought, to seek fertility enhancing drugs, against the firm position of her church at that time. After conceiving, she employed the Cord of Saint Gerard to assure a safe delivery. Having moved, literally, heaven and earth to have me, I was born equally disposed to the highest of heaven and the deepest reaches of hell. The perfect battlefield. Is the Fate of humanity in the balance? My ego tends to think so, but I feel more inclined to quote Garfield and Charlie Brown at their finest: “Gosh, I hope not.”

  • jerry lynch

    Ayn Rand and John Wayne are close family, at least at heart. Frontier Justice, that Wild West view of life, has much in common with the Superman outlook of the person. The notion of “Rugged Individualism” personifies what the Republicans stand for and Ryan symbolizes. A true pity. A blind eye to the “least of these” is vital.

    I read Lonesone Dove twice, and then watched it everytime it aired for about two decades. I felt comfort and safety in their straightforward values. This was how life should be: totally Balck and White. Grit was admired, even if foolhardy, or perhaps especially if foolhardy. No one appeared to suffer the lazy or hangeron. Be a man was the instruction at birth for a male, and insisted upon every year after that. I swooned. Such apparent simplicity and grandeur, such seeming justice and nobility. If only America could return to that purity of being. I was very immature.

    With this background, it was obscene to imagine a welfare system. Pandering to the lower desires of life, emasculating the work ethic. An insult to God.
    Oi vey, such dramatics. There was far more wrong with the justice of the Wild West, for all its seeming purity, than right.

    In my talks with staunch Christian Right Wingers, such as at work, Lonesome Dove is the America they dream of and felt was destroyed by a Kenyan Marxist who dispises such ideals. “He hates our way of life.”

    If it even means that America falls into obscurity and we may suffer greatly in that process, Let us stop this hate for our Black president. Even if the Republicans were offering anything more than the ruinous policies of Bush, perhaps even real abundance, a vote for Obama will help to assuage the venom of the Church.

    With this background, it was obscene to imagine a welfare system. Pandering to the lower desires of life, emasculating the work ethic. An insult to God.
    Oi vey, such dramatics. There was far more wrong with the justice of the Wild West, for all its seeming purity, than right.

    When Patton slapped that whiney soldier (his psyche overwhelmed by the utter horror and evil of war, a truly beautiful testament to the heart of man), my vitriole swelled; a slacker and coward; give em hell, I thought.

  • Bush-I didn’t win with an energized base in 1988. Roosevelt in his 3rd and 4th wins and Truman did not win with an energized base.

    • But Bush 1 rode Reagan’s coatails against even weaker competition. Roosevelt faced war footing which altered everything. It was war footing that helped energize Bush 2’s base in 2004. And as I recall, Truman barely got that one as evidenced by the infamous headline snafu.