Paul Ryan's choice as the vice presidential running mate reveals both the enduring weaknesses in the candidacy of Mitt Romney and the long-term trends that are reshaping the Republican Party.
Ryan brings nothing positive to the ticket except that he energizes the core conservative base. The twin keys to the presidential elections are the capacity to bring out the vote and sway the independents. Paul may ensure that more conservatives do come out and vote, but he will also turn away many of the independents who helped Barrack Obama win in 2008.
During his visit to England and Israel, Mitt Romney gave us a demonstration of the fumbling, bumbling, Bush-like commander-in-chief he will be if he was elected. Yet he picks Ryan as a running mate who has no experience or expertise in foreign affairs. Why?
The only plausible answer is that Romney is unsure of his own base. He is not confident that he alone can guarantee that the core of the conservatives will come out in force in November.
Mitt Romney has become synonymous with the term flip-flop. It is apparent to even his own supporters that he lacks core values that will not change over night. Except maybe one thing -- under no circumstances does he want to pay any taxes. Ryan on the other hand has a reputation of being a single agenda politician, uncompromising on budget issues, with an unshakable commitment to reducing the deficit without raising taxes. He will happily throw the elderly under the bus (by cutting Medicare) and the impoverished (by cutting more welfare programs) to trim the deficit without burdening the rich.
Paul Ryan gives substance to the only thing that Mitt Romney stands for, cutting taxes for the rich and gutting the safety net for the poor and the elderly. He is the assurance, to the conservatives, that Romney will not flip-flop on taxes. This is Romney's way of saying "read my lips; Ryan is my choice (no more taxes)."
Paul Ryan, who is Catholic, likes to argue that his values and policies are shaped by his religious beliefs. But many Catholic religious leaders condemn his economic ideas. Bishop Gene Robinson even called his budget plan "a moral disaster" that "robs the poor."
Ryan's choice sends a clear message; as American economy continues to falter, as the American dream becomes blurry for more and more Americans, the Republican party remains determined to ensure that the rich, particularly the very rich, come out unscathed from this dark moment in our history.
Days after a mosque was razed to the ground in Missouri and Sikhs were massacred in their temple in Wisconsin by a white supremacist, the Republican party once again reminds us that even as America becomes more diverse, the Republican party remains firmly committed to represent rich, white, Christian men. The party seems to underscore the fact that it abhors diversity; racial, religious or intellectual. Do we really want such a narrow vision to guide America?
In conservative circles, Ryan enjoys a reputation for being a man of big ideas, courage and one who has a way with words. He used to be a speechwriter for several Republican politicians. But his speech at one of his announcement events in Manssas, Virginia, left much to be desired. He started with the Tea Party refrain, "on November 6th, we will take our country back!"
From whom, pray tell! The Chinese? The Russians? Who is occupying our country? Neither he nor his supporters will answer that question, but it is obvious -- from non-white Christians. According to recent polls, 34% conservative Republicans believe that President Obama is Muslim and 45% percent of them believe his birth certificate is false. These are racist and bigoted canards used by buffoons like Donald Trump to garner attention from bigger buffoons. This was Ryan's opening salvo.
Then in the next two minutes he accused Obama of being too far to the left and of destroying the economy through crony capitalism! Since when is crony capitalism on the far left? I dread to imagine what then is on the right that Romney and Ryan subscribe to.
The reality of American politics today is deplorable. The fact that billionaires can now contribute unlimited amount of money to shape politics has made America a country with Crony-Capitalistic-Politics -- "crappy" for short. When individuals, such as Sheldon Adelson, commit to giving nearly hundred million dollars to a candidates campaign, they own the agenda and the candidate.
Paul Ryan's ideas and his courage will not matter even if he wins, people like Sheldon Adelson will own him and his boss. I would rather the poor, the minorities, the elderly, women and the marginalized own our president so that he may work for more of us, than a few billionaires, who can surely survive without the help from the White House.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is associate professor at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His website is www.ijtihad.org.
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