My Reactions to the Ryan Reaction

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

I’ve written enough about Paul Ryan in the past that I don’t feel a burning desire to rewrite all that stuff right this minute. Plenty of time for that later. But I do have a few comments about the reaction so far to Mitt Romney’s choice of Ryan as his VP:

  • Democrats seem to be ecstatic because this means Romney can be held accountable for Ryan’s budget plan, including its conversion of Medicare into a voucher program. I wouldn’t be so sure of that, though. When was the last time a president was held responsible for the past policy positions of his running mate? Never, right? It’s the other way around: Ryan will be expected to support Romney’s positions now.
  • Will Ryan get away with this? Sure. Liberals (like me) like to gripe a lot about how the media swoons over Ryan, but that doesn’t change the fact that the media swoons over Ryan. He’s going to get pretty sympathetic treatment, and we have to figure on that.
  • On a personal level, Ryan is a good pick. He’s going to strike a lot of voters asĀ earnest and sincere. Add to that his puppy dog good looks and his even temperament and I can imagine lots of reactions in the neighborhood of “He seems like such a nice young man.” He’ll be hard to demonize.
  • But Republicans need to come down to earth too. Unfortunately for them, Ryan reinforces Romney’s weakest point: that he seems out of touch with ordinary people. In Romney’s case it’s because he’s a mega-millionaire with a stiff demeanor. In Ryan’s case it’s because of his green eyeshade approach to politics. Romney seems too rich to care about ordinary people, while Ryan seems too callow to understand that he should care about people.

Overall, I think Democrats got the better of things today. They can attack Ryan’s budget proposals, they can mock his jejune Ayn Rand fixation, and they can credibly start demanding that Romney and Ryan put more flesh on their policy proposals. The tea party crowd thinks this is great because they’re convinced that Middle America will really and truly come to love their scorched-earth approach to the federal government if only someone is brave enough to stand up and really sell it. This is a fantasy, and smart Republicans like Romney know it, which is why he’s so assiduously avoided policy specifics. But having Ryan on the ticket is going to make it harder to keep the fever-eyed contingent under control.

In any case, I’ll repeat what I said this morning: Ryan’s just the VP. He presents plenty of opportunities for attack, but he won’t radically change the course of the campaign. Liberal firepower should remain mostly trained on Romney. He’s the guy that voters care about, not Ryan.

UPDATE: Apropos of my comment about not getting too distracted by Paul Ryan, Philip Klinkner sends along this 1988 quote from Lee Atwater to Dan Quayle:

You were the best rabbit we ever had. Let them chase you and they’ll stay off the important things.

Roger that. Obviously this weekend is going to be all about Ryan, but in the longer term let’s keep most of our focus on the important things.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate