Last week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. This choice was met with a chorus of delight from conservative activists and commentators. Strikingly, it was the first time I can recall a presidential candidate selecting a running mate that, instead of appealing to a certain geographic region or voting bloc outside the party's base, was chosen to satisfy the fringe wing of the party currently unsatisfied with its standard-bearer.
President Barack Obama has been leading Mitt Romney in nearly every poll, from every outlet, the entire summer. Likewise, despite unfavorable unemployment numbers, President Obama's general likability is consistently found to be much higher than Romney's. The Obama campaign's blistering attacks on Romney's business record at Bain Capital and Romney's own refusal to release his tax records have had a devastating effect on his candidacy.
In my estimation, the Paul Ryan pick was the definitive sign that the GOP has written off this presidential election as a loss. Instead, conservative funders are more interested in "mainstreaming" Paul Ryan's radical budget agenda by placing it front-and-center in this fall's election. There is no better way to do this than to put the architect of the plan on the presidential ticket; and, why else would somebody do that in an election against an incumbent struggling with high unemployment? This election could have been framed as a vote of confidence -- or not -- on President Obama. Instead, Romney's selection has turned it into a clear choice between two visions for the country.
Ryan's plan includes: privatizing Medicare; tax cuts for the wealthy and tax hikes for the poor and middle class; eliminating the refundable child tax credit; massive cuts to education; and transforming Medicaid into a block grant program. It is a truly radical agenda that appeals to the Tea Party but is met with derision from most other constituencies.
Nonetheless, we must be vigilant. Despite my belief that Republicans have put a stronger focus on making the Paul Ryan budget sound normal than on winning this election, none of us should be fooled into working any less on behalf of President Obama's reelection campaign or any other contested general election contests across the state. Indeed, Ryan's selection may have put Wisconsin -- a state previously perceived as safe for Democrats -- into play. We must deliver Michigan for the president. We also have the opportunity to replace the Tea Party's own Reps. Justin Amash and Dan Benishek with forward-thinking Democratic members of Congress. It is also vital that we retake a majority in the state House of Representatives in order to slow Governor Rick Snyder's anti-people, corporate agenda.
The Romney-Ryan campaign is not about fiscal responsibility, economic growth or sound governance. The double-down on the Ryan budget illustrates a party that has become fanatical about balancing corporate handouts on the backs of working families while eliminating every protection people have from the unscrupulous practices of big business. Our short-term goal is to reelect President Obama. Our long-term plan must ensure that the vision for America held by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan never comes to fruition.
Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) is serving his first term in the Michigan Senate. He represents Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and all five Grosse Pointe Communities. Follow him on Twitter at @SenBertJohnson or visit his Web sites at www.johnson.senatedems.com and www.Facebook.com/SenBertJohnson. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.