Senior Staff Writer
Many people say that voting is the act of choosing between lesser evils. It’s hip to be cynical about the current political system and it’s never been easier to see its drawbacks between gridlock in Congress and generally negative campaigning. But this election stands out from the others as being especially substance-oriented. American politics has been changing into an ideologically dynamic environment since the Reagan revolution, and this election season represents possibly the most significant contest between two essentially conflicting theories of America.
Republicans have long talked of reducing government, even as they grew it exponentially and racked up national debt. Some liberals believed they were literally trying to spend so much that the U.S. government would become bankrupt, and be forced to shut down in the so-called “starve the beast” theory. The Reagan and Bush years are prime examples of small-government rhetoric used to promote big-government spending. But there is one man close to the heart of the modern Republican with whom this tendency of the GOP has never sat well: Paul Ryan. Ryan was the architect of privatizing social security, a program proposed just after W. Bush’s 2004 victory, which then failed colossally and contributed to his subsequently dismal approval ratings. He has been the de facto leader of the 2010 freshman GOP class of Tea Party Congressmen in the House.
Ryan’s nomination as Vice President makes close to zero political sense. To beat a dead horse, the Romney campaign is on life support, especially when looking at polling in the swing states. Ryan makes that electoral calculus nearly impossible. Just this week, Ryan was booed during a speech given to the AARP when he attacked Obamacare as cutting into Medicare.
Medicare, and all other entitlement programs, has been targeted by Ryan’s budgets in the past. In acknowledgement of a potential weak spot, and in a move of relatively dazzling political savvy, the Romney campaign went on the offensive on Medicare, accusing Obama of siphoning money away from the program for Obamacare. Although the claim is misleading (the money diverted actually fills the so-called donut-hole in prescription drug spending for seniors), it was an excellent move politically. Ryan is the biggest proponent of cutting entitlement spending that modern U.S. politics has ever seen. His fiscal discipline is certainly something to be admired, but it has written off Florida almost entirely.
So why was Ryan chosen? Romney’s lack of ideological clarity left many Republicans deeply concerned about how true to their cause he would be. It may very well have been an attempt to motivate ideologically-minded big donors like the Koch Brothers. Many media accounts describe a personally affectionate relationship between Romney and Ryan. I think all of these are factors, but I also believe Romney wanted to import Ryan’s ideas, which have become the bread and butter of the modern Republican party.
As the Romney campaign moves on to specific policy proposals — if they indeed finally do — it may be Mitt Romney speaking Paul Ryan’s words, putting forward his ideas. And that may also be part of why he loses on the sixth of November.
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