The Romney campaign’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as candidate for nomination for Vice-President will not help the ticket; in fact, it could well do the opposite. There is nothing devious about Mr Ryan. Will that quality damage the cause?
Cause and effect
With the usual caveats – I am not an American, and I have never visited the US beyond the taxi ranks at LAX – this foreigner begs leave to suggest five or six ways in which the Ryan candidacy might well backfire on those in the GOP who planned it, presumably, on the notion that it seemed a very good idea at the time.
The first consequence, surely, is that it helps the Democrats’ campaign. It will do this mainly by persuading waverers and ‘independents’ that, with the selection of this unattractive ultra to headline the Republicans’ offering, the case for re-electing President Obama is now more compelling and more urgent than ever. We have to ask, Governor: who on your side thought this was a good idea?
The next to be affected will be the Republican Party (GOP) itself. Voters and others will soon start wondering what the real message is, given the growing gap between what Ryanism really is and what GOP candidates for local elections believe they can say. The gap is already noticeable. Hence the threat of any kind of voters’ perception, described by E J Dionne in the Washington Post earlier this week, that the whole GOP is being ‘Ryanized’.
The third effect is, paradoxically, a risk to the Tea Party phenomenon and its coherence as both a stalwart for, and a thorn in the side of, the Republican Party. At first sight, Mr Ryan would appear to be a welcome figure for Party-goers. The division between the ‘true believers’ and the ‘moderates’ in that movement, however, is already visible. It will now widen as it becomes clearer over the next few weeks just how absolutist and unbending Congressman Ryan is apparently prepared to be.
This is despite the Romney camp’s hints that they do not fully endorse his famous deficit reduction plan (tax cuts for the rich, services cuts for the poor), knowing that the Democrats will not let them forget this for even a minute.
Truths on the stump
For both GOP and Tea Party cannon fodder, therefore, there is a fourth effect to be faced. A dawn of understanding, not all of it rosy, will soon fill the sky as they listen to Mr Ryan attempt to be reassuring about what a Romney administration would do about various areas of federal spending, hitherto thought to be untouchable.
Would Medicare – that money-wasting piece of socialist provision so dearly loved by older Americans and their families – be touched? If so, how? In a country where medical costs can bankrupt a decent family within an afternoon, these are important questions, even for people who hate government. Can candidate Ryan be trusted to give the right answers?
Passing swiftly over Congressman Ryan’s attitude to farm subsidies (he likes these) and to moves to tighten up regulations controlling agricultural dust (he doesn’t like those) and his thrice-over inability to spell Colombia correctly, we arrive at one of the biggest questions. What about the military, homeland security and everyday policing?
America the Strong
Years ago, J K Galbraith noted that the only area of the nation’s life for which the middle classes don’t mind paying taxes is defence. The congressman is on record praising the armed services and promising further resources. So far, so good. But a root-and-branch deficit reduction plan trumps this, surely. We wonder if this promises to be a fifth effect. Which part of the United States’ colossal defence budget would a Romney-Ryan administration feel able to cut?
No doubt answer answers to these questions will emerge in coming weeks as Gov Romney and Rep Ryan are grilled on Sunday morning talk shows. Attention will naturally be focused on the former. Unguarded remarks by this famously gaffe-prone candidate will reveal his true thinking. This is a situation made more risky, and so more interesting, by the Ryan selection and what that equally intriguing factor means and promises.
Who is Paul Ryan?
Americans should hope that the upcoming GOP convention will clarify all this. For the moment, Americans have not yet had enough time to assess the advent of a veep candidate like Mr Ryan. He is, contrary to conservatives’ oft-stated preference, a seasoned Washington professional.
Strangely, his House website has so many syntactical errors, repetitions and padding, and illogicalities of argument that it is actually difficult to read. (Or hilarious: have a look at this blooper: “In turn, government agencies would have the ability to more effectively allocate resources to illegal and unauthorized aliens who mean to do us harm – criminals, terrorists, and drug smugglers.” No doubt these evil-doers appreciate such largesse). Can no-one on Mr Ryan’s team write decent English?
I think it likely Mr Ryan’s main contribution to this presidential year will be to polarise it. All it takes is for one shocking moment when he blurts out on live TV, not a gaffe as such, some truth that will seem to him self-evident but to the rest of Americans deluded and probably unpleasant; on abortion, for example. If so, he will likely damage Mr Romney’s drive for the White House substantially. Is this what the Governor thought he could risk, merely to protect his right flank?