August 11, 2012
Three things about three things RE: Paul Ryan

1-Why it might be a good choice for Romney: One- For the past generation politicians on Republican tickets have been woeful at explaining complicated ideas and conservative philosophies. I think every Republican is yearning for a candidate to come out and actually be able to explain conservative ideas in a coherent manner and not get flustered the first time they are challenged with a hostile question. Congratulations every Republican. Paul Ryan can do that in spades. He’s very articulate and thrives on difficult questions. His latest Medicare proposals are co-sponsored with a Democrat. He can persuade. He knows his stuff and he has mastered the details. This is something we haven’t seen from a Republican candidate in a long time.
Two- Paul Ryan, the budget cutter, might not be the greatest pick in the world. Paul Ryan, the Midwestern Catholic kid who lost his dad as a teenager, drove the wiener mobile as a summer job, and graduated from that ivory towered institute of the American Establishment, Miami University of Ohio, might be a stronger pick. If the Romney campaign can emphasize this aspect of his biography it would help voters relate to him and see him as a practical politician, less concerned with ideology and more concerned with making ends meet. Voters will accept a politician arguing for spending cuts (even in a blue state see Christie, Chris) what they will not tolerate is a candidate they see as doing so for ideological reasons. This may shock some conservative pundits but it’s true. Ryan would best become acquainted with the phrase, to quote Governor Christie, “Look we don’t have the money….look….we…don’t…have….the….money.” A Midwestern guy who has worked for a small family business has more street cred on this than a DC “policy wonk.”
Three- IF elected Romney will have an effective Vice President. Romney seems like the kind of candidate who would seriously think about his Vice Presidential pick in terms of hiring a person to do a job. I strongly suspect this is the criteria Romney used to ultimately decide. In terms of legislative know how, relationships with Congress, and rallying conservative grassroots to a cause, Romney could not have done better than Ryan. Of course, he has to win in order to get there.
2- Why it might be a bad choice for Romney: One- Conservatives wanted this election to be a choice not a referendum.Good for them. So did the Obama campaign. In a incumbent election, voters decide whether they are happy with the incumbent and then, if not, whether the other candidate is acceptable. This is just how things work. Romney had a huge advantage in that voters had already decided they didn’t think the incumbent was that spectacular and would be open to an alternative. Mitt Romney’s job was to not look scary and be a tolerable alternative. He can still do this but if the Ryan pick is to turn this into a choice not a referendum, it’s foolish. Even the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, spent the autumn of 1980 making himself look tolerable and not frightening. He certainly didn’t run away from his ideology but neither did he spent every stump speech hammering away at it. He reinforced the message Carter has failed, I’m a safe pair of hands. Likewise Bill Clinton in 1992, another excellent politician. George Bush has failed you, I’m not scary. Romney-Ryan can still very much do this but only if they ignore the DC conservative bubble’s advice and focus on what voters are concerned about.
Two- A significant part of the hostility towards Obama stems from Medicare cuts in Obamacare. Granted this is actually a bad reason to oppose Obamacare since, as Paul Ryan will happily tell you, it needs to be reformed some how. Nonetheless, this motivates a lot of voters. The Democrats will saturate the airwaves with Mediscare ads. They will likely be dishonest and full of exaggerations. They will also likely work. In a time of economic anxiety the last thing a candidate should be doing is increasing that anxiety. Free market reforms are necessary for saving the social welfare system. Free market reforms are also frightening. Conservatives frequently forget the latter in favor of the former. If you have lost your job or are in fear of losing it, free market reform is not something than will fill you with delight but rather fear.
Three- You’ve lost your job. You are afraid of losing your job. Your paycheck has shrunk. Your home’s value has depreciated. You were counting on that income for your retirement. You’re in debt. Government services have been cut. You are frightened and anxious. This is normal, you should be. It’s stressful. The President seems like a decent enough guy. You voted for him. But he is completely out of his depth. Everything he has tried has failed. He has broken his promises. You don’t trust him. You look at the other candidate. You want him to address your concerns. You want to be persuaded by him. He comes on the television and is telling you how important reforming Medicare is in 2023. Huh? What? Maybe you think to yourself. This is probably true, you say, after giving it some thought. But what does it have to do with getting me a job in 2012 or preserving my job in 2013. This is the voter you have to persuade. Does Ryan help you do this? He could, I’m sure. But only if there is a shift of emphasis and focus. If Ryan dedicates himself to discussing the problems of today he could be brilliant. However he has made his name by discussing the problems that lay in the future.
3-The Big Picture
Economically America had a serious heart attack in 2008. She is barely recovering and may be declining. She certainly cannot live a flourishing and prosperous life right now. Dr. Obama and Dr.Biden have tried their medicine. It hasn’t worked. It may have made things worse. It may have improved things slightly. It’s hard to say. You just know the seriousness of her condition and the fact you’ve spent a lot of money with little in the way of results. You turn to Dr. Romney. He has an impressive resume. He has worked on other patients and succeeded. He hasn’t faced anything quite like that but you’re willing to take a chance. His assistant, Dr. Ryan, walks into the room. He too is quite impressive and excellent at communicating complicated medical ideas into language you understand. He tells Dr. Romney that he has evaluated the patient and he believes that the patient has a tumor. The tumor is manageable now but it will grow and become malignant and if left untreated will kill the patient. Dr. Obama laughs this off but he does point out that the patient has had a heart attack. Dr. Romney and Dr. Ryan are spending a lot of time now discussing the tumor. You agree, America need the tumor removed. You are just concerned about whether America is healthy enough to operate now. You are very concerned that Dr. Romney has now forgotten the heart attack and is solely focused on the tumor. You really don’t want to take America back to Dr. Obama but at least Dr. Obama is treating the immediate problem albeit ineffectively. You think Dr. Romney could treat the heart attack, if he remembers that America has had one. If Dr. Romney and Dr. Ryan turned their full attention to the heart attack you suspect they might do a really good job. This would give America the physical stamina and confidence to move on towards treating the tumor.
America has given you full custody of her medical condition. You love her. You want her to survive and thrive. You must make a decision. Good luck.
-M.D.B.