By naming Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) his running mate, Mitt Romney has now made it official: He is a total captive of the far right of the Republican Party. I actually agree with both Republican LGBT groups, Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, when they say that Ryan is a great choice. I, too, believe he is a great choice -- for the Democrats.
Ryan is an ideologue who will be difficult for Romney to deal with. It appears that Romney has already realized that, as his campaign has tried to distance him from Ryan's well-known budget plan by saying that as president he will develop his own budget proposal. During their 60 Minutes interview, Romney said, "Ryan is a leader in Congress who will help get his agenda passed." The problem with that statement is that in more than 13 years in Congress, Ryan has only managed to get two bills passed into law. The first, in 2000, renamed a post office in his district, and the second, according to a story on The Huffington Post:
was in December 2008, with legislation to change the way arrows (as in bows and arrows) are hit with an excise tax. Specifically, his bill amended the Internal Revenue Code to impose a 39-cent tax per arrow shaft, instead of a 12.4 percent tax on the sales price. The bill also "includes points suitable for use with arrows in the 11 percent excise tax on arrow parts and accessories."
This, according to Romney, represents a sterling record of leadership.
With Ryan's selection, this election is now what President Obama wants and believes it should be: not a referendum on his first term but a "choice" election, giving voters a clear choice on what the future direction of our nation should be. We either move boldly into the future with President Obama or march backwards toward the 18th century with the Romney/Ryan ticket. If you are a senior, a woman, a member of the LGBT community, middle-class, Latino or belonging to another minority group, there is now a clearer reason to reject the Republican Party.
Romney and Ryan oppose the Dream Act and want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, partially privatize Social Security, and take us back to "don't ask, don't tell." The Republican Party is for tax breaks for the rich and cuts in college loans for the middle class and the poor. The Republican Party nominated Scalia, Thomas, and Alito to the Supreme Court and want more of the same.
Ryan sees himself as a policy wonk, which he is. He is also an ideologue, and as with many ideologues, he refuses to compromise and stymies progress. Some have called him a "true believer," and for many the problem lies in what he believes. He is for overturning Roe v. Wade; he supports education vouchers and a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality; he opposes allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military. Ryan co-sponsored a personhood amendment with 62 other Republicans, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which declares that a fertilized egg "shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes of personhood." In essence, this would outlaw abortion, some forms of contraception, and in vitro fertilization.
The Ryan budget claims that rising financial aid is driving college tuition upwards and proposes cutting the Pell grant program by $200 billion, which numerous estimates claim could cause more than 1 million students to lose Pell grants over the next 10 years. In September 2011 Ryan agreed with Rick Perry's characterization of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," and since 2005 he has advocated for privatizing it and investing it in stocks and bonds.
Mitt Romney went to the far right to win the Republican nomination. His chances of becoming president would have been greatly enhanced had he run on his record as governor of Massachusetts. But that was impossible with those currently leading the Republican Party. Naming Ryan as his running mate has completed his race to the very far right.
Beyond the presidential race, the selection of Ryan could hurt the Republican Party in congressional races. The Ryan budget ideas haven't faced a national test, but in one special election in a Republican stronghold in upstate New York, a district where there are 30,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats and where Ryan's ideas on changing Medicare were the centerpiece of the election, the Democrat won.
There are less than 12 weeks to Election Day. The choice is clear, and I have confidence that the American people will choose the road forward rather than marching back to the 18th century with the Republican Party.
A version of this piece first appeared in the Washington Blade.