Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan Veep

Driftglass suggests correctly ( that Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his veep is a desperate appeal to the hard right of his party, which includes almost all the talking and visible aspects of the GOP. Ms Coulter's hissy fit earlier this week probably scared not only Mr. Hannity, but Romney as well. What she said, after all, was that "we" aren't going to pay for a candidate who won't follow our current historical revision, who won't toe the mark and walk the line (to borrow a phrase from Waylon Jennings). Romney's whole political career has one gigantic feature--a remarkably endless willingness to say and do what people he thinks have power want. More than any politician in my memory, save possibly Ronald Reagan, it is impossible to actually know what Mr. Romney believes. About anything. All we know is that he can be authoritarian. That is, he can put a dog on the roof, and leave all the women's issues to his wife to sort out. To be authoritarian is not a position, it is a way of being. There's a big difference.

This week the Wall Street Journal exhorted Mr. Romney to pick Paul Ryan. At the same time, Romney's own staff made the horrible mistake of actually citing one of Romney's own achievements, the health care reform he instituted in Massachusetts when he was Governor. This was a "mistake" because the entire political right has spent the last four years attacking the national health care reform patterned on Romney's state-wide reform (down to the always omitted detail that the national health care reform bill is grounded in the private health insurance company industry, and will be a boon to the industry). The "mistake" Romney's staffer made, in short, was to become a credible counter to the intense propaganda campaign which generated the muddled Tea Party movement and an off-year Republican electoral landslide in 2010. It's one thing when Democrats try to argue that all the blather about death panels and European socialism is nonsense. It's another thing when a Romney staffer says pretty much the same thing, by implication.

So, as Driftglass remarks today. Romney caved. As usual. He changed the subject. He picked Paul Ryan. There are obvious implications, pro and con. On the one hand, I think Mr. Ryan will have a lot more appeal to the muddled "independent" American voter than, say, Sarah Palin managed. Mr. Ryan seems on the surface to be an "intellectual," cool and considered, about policy and numbers, not dog whistles and hate. And the fact is--as a demographic certainty--one of the candidates, either Obama or Romney, is going to need this muddled independent middle to win the election. Moreover, Ryan has such credibility with the hardcore right--the pundit leadership of Limbaugh, Coulter and the rest--that he will certainly shore up the right wing base in a way that a possibility such as Tim Pawlenty was incapable of.

What Romney is hoping to achieve, I think, is a kind of dual campaign. He can continue to cite his seemingly moderate record as a politician and, at the same time, use Ryan's radical economic agenda as a red flag to his base, and to independents who spend all their time fretting about the possibility that the United States may go the way of Greece and Spain--that is, people who tremble at big numbers with no context.

On the other hand, Mr. Ryan is, at last, a very clear target for anyone hoping to remind America of what used to be taken for granted--a government which protects people who otherwise would simply be discarded by the economic system when they are no longer productive, due to age or education or outsourcing. The long term goal of the American Right is the utter destruction of all vestiges of Roosevelt's "safety net." The American Right holds as a tenant that people must "produce" to live, and argues in the face of the obvious that "producing" is entirely a matter of personal will. This is Mr. Ryan's view. It ought to be possible to make it clear to voters that by putting Paul Ryan on the Republican Ticket this fall, the hard-core right's agenda is now the official agenda of a Republican Administration.

That is, the political advantage Mr. Romney has enjoyed--of presenting so vague and confusing a picture of his plans and ideas that his primary appeal to voters is his stiff charm and the fact that he's rich and white--should be eclipsed by his choice of a very known quantity--the guy who has produced and argued for the "Ryan Budget," which will destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know these programs, along with many other government services, all in the service of protecting the "job creator" class from any further taxation.

Not that Mr. Romney wasn't already toeing this line, mind you. But no one can really believe much of anything about Mr. Romney--right or right center. Romney is a persistent liar. His lies are so numerous that he really has no serious credibility. He has lied so often that at this point he can neither cite his business nor his political record. His silence on his own tax record is remarkable. Each new day, Romney is a new blank slate (thus the "Etch-a-sketch" metaphor).

While Mr. Ryan also has a changing political record (see the New Yorker, August 6, "Fussbudget," by Ryan Lizza), most voters know him primarily as the author of the "Ryan Budget," which is the on-record economic agenda of the Republican Party as it exists in the House of Representatives. Ryan's plan is the coming Romney tax plan, should Republicans gain control of both the Presidency and Congress. Ryan is a Representative from Wisconsin, and supports Scott Walker's radical agenda in that state. Paul Ryan is a hard-core Randian, on the record.

The Republicans are already starting to argue that the 2010 elections were an indication of the views of the "American People" on economic and social issues. Ryan represents the Radical Right juggernaut that took over the House in 2011, even if he was already there, and during the Bush years was a loyal soldier, voting for every deficit increase the Bush Administration asked for.

It ought to be possible for Democrats to at least point out Mr. Ryan's clear record, and his clear agenda. The question will be, how much money can the Dems muster to counter a bottomless Republican war chest. And, how successful Republican voter suppression efforts in swing states will be. In both these aspects, I find the liberal pundits of MSNBC to be far too sanguine. It may be laughably absurd, this Republican agenda of destroying the most popular programs in American history. It might be really hilarious to point at the rubes who flourish signs exhorting, "Keep Your Big Government Hands Off My Social Security," or to laugh at the absurdity of the Tea Party claim that it is in no way a racist political movement, when the very signage at their events makes racist assertions. But it's obvious, at this point, that millions of American voters do not make logical connections.

Nonetheless, the appointment of Ryan to the Romney ticket is the Democrats best hope to find clarity and logic perceptible to a majority of American voters. If--of course--those voters can present the special credentials which radical Republican legislatures and governors have now made a mandatory part of the voting process in crucial swing states.

[photo: "Romney Picks Ryan"]

Sunday update (upon watching the wall to wall coverage on Fox of Ryan's unveiling, occurring in a large picic shelter at Manassas, Va, scene of two of Stonewall Jackson's greatest triumphs over the United States of America and the U.S. Army--in the first one the Confederates brought several United States Senators and Congressmen back to Richmond after they'd gotten too close to the action, which they thought was going to be a picnic in the afternoon. La Histoire. She doth spin):

The Romney-Ryan train could not even leave the station without flat out lying about the President and his record. They also could not manage to resist playing the victim card--"He called me a murderer"--which is pretty rich coming from both of these guys, a millionaire who thinks he deserves to be President, and a Objectivist True Believer who can't even stand up for his Athiest Hero when he's called on it. It's too bad Mr. Obama can't debate Ryan head on. Maybe Mr. Biden can catch an opportune cold just before the Veep Debate and Obama will have to fill in. Surely as big a self-declared genius as Paul Ryan wouldn't hide behind Romney's skirts in such an eventuality. I'd watch.

Second Sunday Update
: Paul Ryan is what passes for an economist in the mainstream media. He has an affect--he plays a "serious economist" on TV. But what he perports to believe is probably nonsense. See, e.g., the following:

It's not like Mr. Obama has been particularly helpful when it comes to economics. The question remains, rather, whether America gets a hardcore plutocrat with the clear aim of stealing as much wealth as he can and funnelling it to his fellow plutocrats, or on the other hand, a man with some apparent empathy regarding real life as it is lived by 99 percent of the American people.

Monday Update: You know what. It's pretty stupid when the following has to even be elaborated. I always thought it was obvious that there are almost no supermen, toiling alone to build their gigantic businesses or fortunes. That it was almost always a complex collaboration between society and good fortune and insight and stamina and many other things that leads, at some end point, to a particular person such as Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan and his family's business or James B. Duke or Bill Gates or... ending up being the famous zillionaire. It's obviously a collaboration. Yet this plain fact is now in dispute with one of the major party's candidates for vice president and president doing the disputing. And so they did during the "unveiling" speeches on Saturday.

So, ok, I guess time must be wasted on this. Mr. Rude Pundit did the job for all of us:

Ok, now this groundwork ought to be laid. And it's time for everyone to realize that in the selection of Ryan for Vice President the Republican Party is now running directly and full on on the program of dismantling all the entitlement programs which serve as a humanizing safety net for all American citizens. According to the Republican Party, such a safety net is no longer worth paying for. Vote for them and it's simply sink or swim. A few people will certainly swim, and some fewer for their whole lifetimes and even into their children's lifetimes. For the rest of us, well, we'll find out how it's like in places like Calcutta as things slowly, inexorably contract around us. And we're pretty much fresh out of Mother Teresas too. And as for the economy? Vote for these people this time and I'd guess we'll see something that no one can pretend isn't a Great Depression. That's the Ryan plan. Brutal, ignorant fantasy from a naive, charming romantic who thought she could actually imagine a brave new world more to her liking.

I've mentioned it before. Try watching The Fountainhead sometime. Even with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, it's just simply pathetic. And this is what "inspired" Paul Ryan. We had all best pray that the Deomcratic Party is capable of educating the electorate on what's truly at stake. I don't see how this sort of mistake can be unmade later. Indeed, one could say that the Romney/Ryan ticket (to hell) is yet another result of the tragedy that was the election of George W. Bush in 2000. It wasn't 9/11 that changed everything. That had already happened.

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