Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

Slightly different variation of the question for conservatives: will it turn out in the long run that picking Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's way of co-opting the Tea Party...or will it turn out to show that the Tea Party is in charge?

32 comments:

  1. I think of it another way - I don't think either will happen.

    Ryan's going to move to support the ticket, and away from his personal stances.

    Romney's going to show that he's in charge, and the obvious (I think obvious) point that no matter how pure someone seems, the pursuit of power and influence will change them.

    And the Tea Party won't be co-opted. They will remain unled, unleadable, and a strong critical voice.

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  2. I don't really think there's a meaningful enough distinction between Romneyland and the Tea Party to notice; he'd already adopted most of their positions, and outside of health care, it's not like he gave up anything really meaningful to do it.

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  3. It may be that the Romney campaign believes that by picking Ryan it can co-opt the Tea Party -- but, so far, Romney has demonstrated no ability to co-opt or lead on anything. Whether he really can (especially given how little talent he has shown so far for gaining support from the base without debasing himself with the most outrageous pandering), after raising the far Right's expectations through the roof by bringing Ryan into the campaign, dash their expectations by pivoting to the center is very questionable. In fact, I think he has just made it harder to move to the center, and guaranteed engendering an over-whelming sense of betrayal on the part of "the base" if he attempts to do so.

    Plus, while Ryan is brilliant at promoting himself and his own radical ideas, he has not, recently, demonstrated any talent for humility. He's an extremely ambitious man who has worked hard to promote, and reaped great recent benefit from promoting, a very heroic image of himself. As someone who has declared that he was "nauseated" by the votes he had to take as a loyal Republican during the Bush years he may find it hard to go back to the role of mere loyal supporter. Even if he wanted to, it could be very hard for him to believably position himself as sincerely happy to embrace more establishment positions after claiming those positions make him sick, and after building a national reputation based in eschewing moderation.

    Ryan has built a political persona as a "brave" and radical "idea" man. If Romney chooses not to use that persona, if rejects his ideas and wants him to now be less brave, he will be rejecting everything Ryan's political mojo is built on. It's like buying a computer and throwing away everything except the box it came in.

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  4. It goes beyond a simple Tea Party question. Ryan's budget=GOP budget. On the first go-round, 235 House Republicans voted for it, only 4 against. Only 5 GOP senators voted no. This year, it was 228 yea-10 nay. They own it. It is the Republican plan for the next 10 years. If Romney does not release his own plan that has different emphases yet is an equivalent effort, how can he possibly separate himself from his party's stated goals?

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    1. I mean--given that he's *chosen* the architect of those goals?

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    2. By choosing Ryan, the Ryan Medicare Health Stamps program is now the Romney Medicare Health Stamps program.

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  5. I dunno...I'm thinking Mitt made a great choice. They could go on the road as "The Unlikable Twins." Do a little dance, and be all white and whatnot.

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  6. I think the "Tea Party" is sort of a complicated specimen and therein lies a reason why Ryan was selected. If we are talking about the populism that led to the 2010 victory for Republicans as well as a number of successful primary challenges, then I think we are talking about a group of mostly older, white, southern/rural voters, many of whom are blue-collar. But there is a smaller, though much wealthier, group of often younger libertarians and rich mega-donors. The older, white voters are traditional right-wing voters- anti-immigration, and longing for a more pure America of years gone by. The second group can only have the power it has in America, where they can fund entire politcal movements, despite having very weak grassroots support. The Republicans absolutely need these two groups to stay on the same team, a task that is getting more and more difficult to manage. Paul Ryan's pitch cyncially tries to placate older, blue collar voters while promising the destruction of the social contract that the mega-donors believe we so desperately need.

    So in that sense, I don't think Ryan comes from outside the GOP Establishment since I think he is demonstrating their model for future operations. But I do think that the cynicism of what he proposes and the utter cruelty of his views on social welfare politics are going to further push the GOP into it's own cynical, nasty world. So I think Romney's choice accellerates that trend, one he really couldn't control in the first place.

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  7. Paul Ryan isn't a tea party Republican. He has a generic House Republican voting record -- voted for TARP, Medicare Part-D and everything else Bush did to get us into trouble.

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    1. reflectionephemeralAugust 13, 2012 at 7:10 AM

      But the Tea Party supported all those things too.

      See: "what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do. More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics."

      See also: "as Bush left office, he had a 28 percent approval rating from independents– and a 75 % rating from Republicans, according to Gallup. According to an ABC/WaPo poll, Bush left office with 34% approval from independents, and 68% from Republicans– but 82% from self-professed “conservative Republicans”. Over the course of his presidency, Bush rarely received less than 80% approval of “conservative Republicans”. ... Republicans loved George Bush because he was “one of us”, and they hate Barack Obama because he’s a Muslim foreigner. The idea that size of government has anything to do with it is patently absurd."

      The Tea Party is an attitude, not a series of policy commitments. It is pervasive throughout the GOP. Mitt Romney has been arguing that the president has "foreign" ideas, and doesn't really understand America-- is maybe even deliberately harming it. So picking Ryan is a complement to that existing campaign. It's a new wrinkle, for sure, because Romney is suddenly tied to specific policy positions, but it's not out of nowhere.

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    2. reflectionephemeral,

      We'll just have to disagree about core tea party values. In any case, if Romney is trying to appeal to so-con, anti-immigrant and conspiratorial sentiment, picking a gentlemanly policy wonk like Ryan is a very odd choice.

      On the Bush approval ratings... that's totally meaningless. Progressive Democrats are going to strongly disagree with Obama on the Patriot Act, the NDAA, and the Afghanistan surge, and yet they probably approve of him at very high rates.

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  8. James Downie wrote an interesting article for WaPo this morning http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/no-paul-ryan-is-not-courageous/2012/08/11/89a9ee56-e3ed-11e1-a25e-15067bb31849_blog.html?tid=pm_opinions_pop , suggesting that Romney picked Ryan in order to set up the Tea Party for the fall the GOP is going to take in November. I don't know if that's really the campaign's reasoning, but if it is, it will be the smartest thing the Republican establishment have done since forever. If the Tea Party is in the driver's seat, they've already taken the car over the cliff. If the GOP loses in November, they can't follow the pattern of moving even farther to the right, which is what they have done ever since the Clinton years, since there isn't any more room there. Best to blame the Tea Party for their troubles, have their civil war, and regroup - this time tacking to the center - or face oblivion.

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    1. I've heard that theory, and I really have my doubts. If Romney loses, do not expect the conservative opinion leaders and mega-donors to repudiate their own ideology. Ryan would retain major status in the movement, but would be damanged goods for national politics.

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    2. The idea that Romney picked Ryan in anticipation of what people will say about him when he looses is just looney tunes.

      If Republicans do face defeat, it will be the Tea Party faction that benefits -- as Downie himself demonstrates, Ryan has the voting record of the old guard republicans who are still in control. To my mind, a Romney loss will almost guarantee that it will be Rand Paul (not Jon Huntsman) who will be a frontrunner for 2016.

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    3. Very interesting, however it depends on Romney accepting that he will lose in November. Point 1, I would find it very hard to believe that the Romney inner-circle would already be conceding.

      Point 2, even if their polls show them down (and they aren't working on a plan to steal votes & states somehow, cf. FL, PA, weird voting contractor in MI), and they could _intellectually accept_ the possibility of a loss (here still in the first half of August & before the conventions), human nature, the optimism of animal spirits, ego and emotion factors all work against Romney & his closest circle buying that intellectual acceptance and not making a last all-out effort to change events to get to victory. That's their real goal, they already assume they'll maintain influence/control of the Republican Party one way or another.

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    4. No, I don't really buy the image of Romney as a kamikaze pilot, willingly going down in flames for the greater good.

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    5. Downie cites Noam Scheiber's analysis from The New Republic yesterday, which is the strangest thing of Scheiber's I've ever read. First, Romney and his people are still assuming they can win (there have been lots of late surges in the past), and second, the Tea Party / GOP right will not blame Ryan for a loss any more than they blamed Palin. It will all be about how Ryan was mishandled or muzzled, how people ultimately vote for the top of the ticket, etc. Hence, as with Palin, Romney will be the conservative star going forward, and I would expect him to be the early frontrunner the 2016 GOP primaries.

      As to the original question about co-opting, I agree with Colby about the lack of a meaningful distinction. "Tea Party" is just the name that's been given since 2009 to the familiar phenomenon of Republicans being really, really angry that a Democrat had the temerity to get elected president, and "deficit" is just their word for the fundamental illegitimacy of rule by Democrats. Were any Republican to win, they would calm down and learn to love (actual) deficits again, as they -- and Ryan himself -- did under GWB. Perhaps you could call that mutual co-optation.

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    6. Hence, as with Palin, Romney will be the conservative star going forward, and I would expect him to be the early frontrunner the 2016 GOP primaries.

      I think you meant Ryan.

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    7. Of course Romney is convinced that he will win. Isn't he the smartest guy in the room? Everybody tells him he is. I think that the Huntsman et al wing of the Republican party - people who represent business that are based on neither finance or oil - who worked behind the scenes to convince all of the other candidates that Romney would take them down with him. Ryan is the last man standing.

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  9. Romney long since surrendered to the Tea Party. He's running for President, for Pete's sake.

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  10. The long run...

    If they win, who knows? Romney will have a struggle either way. If he succeeds (as a president), it will obviously involve destroying the Tea Party. If he fails, they can discard him (maybe Ryan too) and survive.

    If they lose, they'll blame him, not Ryan.

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  11. Could be Romney is looking ahead. If he were to win the election, he'd absolutely have to break Tea Party orthodoxy to get the actual economy moving again (rather than signing onto some variation of the Ryan budget which would bring a new round of recession). Republicans being Republicans, any concern for deficits will go right out the window as of inauguration day.

    I think Romney picked Ryan as an August/January VP choice. Half to drum up base support before the election, half as cover to avoid a primary fight in 2016.

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  12. And as to the actual question, the Tea Party tail has been wagging the Romney dog since the earliest stages of the primaries. Every notable move Romney has made throughout the campaign has been to (appease) the right.

    And on the few occasions Romney or a campaign aide has stepped out of bounds, they've walked it back faster than John Boehner can apologize to Rush Limbaugh.

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    1. (Case in point, about 24 hours after the pick)

      Mitt Romney's surrogates, today:

      TOP ROMNEY ADVISER ED GILLESPIE: Well, as Governor Romney has made clear, if the Romney, sorry, if the Ryan budget had come to his desk as a budget, he would have signed it, of course, and one of the reasons that he chose Congressman Ryan is his willingness to put forward innovative solutions in the budget.

      RNC CHAIRMAN REINCE PREIBUS: First of all, he did embrace the Ryan budget. He embraced it.

      (Didn't take the base long to get the point across. Again.)

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  13. It depends on what the Ryan-Romney response is to a vulnerability that Ryan has with blue collar union labourers in his district.

    See http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/106059/paul-ryans-dirty-union-secret

    Wisconsin Democrats could coordinate with national labor unions and force Ryan to choose between the Scylla of holding onto the Reagan Democrats in his district who tend to vote for him and the Charybdis of a huge national campaign funded by the likes of the Kochs that keeps him to the anti-union party line.

    You have to remember, a guy who votes to uphold the Davis-Bacon Act even though he authors a bill that ends Medicare is probably vulnerable on the latter at the national level and the former at the level of the 350,000 or so voters that decide whether he remains in the House. The ability to take him down, of course, may be as strong a motivating factor as was the effort to unseat Harry Reid.

    Thus, if we find Paul Ryan beginning to be challenged on his TEA-ness for his pro-union deviations (rather than his unseemly support of George W Bush's legislative record), then we know the Tea Party is indeed in charge and it may be able to move both nominees to the right.

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  14. The R's are busily challenging public employee labor unions right now, at the local and state levels, so Davis-Bacon wouldn't be their prime effort, and Ryan would likely get a pass on any such apostasy as it's a federal issue and subordinate to that local/state strategy.

    The Left is somewhat writing off those dirty boots skilled tradesmen, in favor of those wonderful SEIU, AFSCME and NEA union dues and campaign contributions. So Ryan and others of his persuasion will go that route, as those Wisconsin recall elections showed productive for them with the demographics in question.

    The pieces are moving around, folks. This isn't the set piece environment you think it is.

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  15. Mitt Romney isn't a party faction. While he had to listen to party factions (somewhat like McCain did, although Obama hatred and Romney's lack of his own principles made his choices easier than McCain's were), he still picked a person he thought would help ROMNEY get elected. I'm really unsure that Romney thinks that far ahead, politically.

    So, in light of that, I'd say that this is not evidence of either side of the ledger (unless we get more information). Take 2008. At first, Palin came across as a weak attempt to pick off "Clinton Democrats." However, within a couple weeks, we started to see stories about Lieberman and Ridge having been rejected by important party factions. That BECAME a story about the GOP. But, at first blush, it seemed like just "one damned thing." Ryan could just be the result of Romney liking him. OR, he could represent something. Until we know more about the selection process, I can't say anything. This could just be Dick Cheney picking himself.

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  16. The teabaggers are what they have always been - the angriest, dumbest, most aggressive and paranoid component of the GOP base. The difference is that at the local level they've purged the moderates who used to be able to keep them out of the limelight and away from the levers of control. What matters here isn't the hapless Romney or oleaginous Ryan, but the string of primaries in which the teabaggers have shown that they neither know, nor care, what realistic policies and good government look like. That's why anyone who thinks that defeat will chasten them is entirely unrealistic. They'll double down on being white, self-pitying, militantly ignorant and very, very angry at reality.

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    1. Wow, dude.

      You type that hateful bile, and then call somebody else "angry"?

      Wow.

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    2. This whole blog is like this now. I used to read regularly, but both the author and the commenters have really partisan-ed up as the election has grown nearer.

      Jonathan is not hateful as his commenters are, to be sure, but it's pretty amazing how matter-of-factly he tosses out any number of very broad statements about any sort of conservative thinking or policy, as if it's barely even worth arguing. And surprise surprise, this attitude has led to a frothing, vitriolic group of commenters. It's unfortunate. I'm checking back in now after literally months, and seen side-by-side like that, it's gotten WAY worse.

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