All Republicans running for office have a significant handicap to overcome – the comfortspeak of the left. As Jeane Kirkpatrick once explained on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” program, socialism has achieved its undeserved political success mainly due to its soothing rhetoric. Words like “fairness”, “sharing”, “equality” and “community” pervade socialist and left-wing language. Conservative talking points seem cold by comparison – “free-markets”, "individual responsibility”, “private property rights”. Even the words “freedom” and “liberty” can have a negative connotation, suggesting that, “you’re on your own” (as Democrats invariably accuse Republicans of telling the downtrodden).
Michael Barone recently observed that, “The problem for Republicans is that it’s impossible to foresee exactly how free-market policies will improve people’s lives”.
I remember reading a few years ago some liberal columnist (I'm thinking Anna Quindlen?), mocking President G. W. Bush for speaking of the double taxation of dividends as some sort of a moral crime. Well, it is, since it impedes capital investment which in turn restricts economic growth and job creation. Increased poverty results.
In politics, intentions often trump results. For instance, it is nothing short of criminal how “progressive” policies such as the minimum wage, rent control, restricted school choice, and unrestrained welfare (e.g. - Aid To Dependent Children) have devastated the black community. Yet, somehow, Republicans are portrayed as “racists” for opposing those policies.
As I was searching online for a reference to Kirkpatrick’s comments, I came across the transcript of an excellent and spirited talk given by Jay Nordlinger a decade ago. Nordlinger spoke of the unwarranted timidity with which Republicans defend their beliefs, ideas, and even their identity as Conservatives. He urged Conservatives to “straighten their backs” and aggressively promote their superior ideology.
With the importance of the upcoming 2012 presidential race, it is essential that Republicans nominate someone who will heed Nordlinger’s exhortations. Paul Ryan meets that criterion.
Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard reported Tuesday that Ryan is now seriously considering running. Hayes reports that Ryan isn’t impressed with any of the announced GOP candidates. And he understands that the stakes are high.
“…the way I see 2012 – we owe it to the country to let them choose the path they want our country to take. And I just have yet to see a strong and principled articulation of the kind of limited government, opportunity society path that we would provide as an alternative to the Obama cradle to grave welfare state.”
If Ryan does run it will be due to his sense of obligation and not because of ambition. Cynics would deride that statement, but at 41 Ryan would be better off waiting at least until 2016 for his initial shot at the presidency. He seems happy where he is now, heading the House Budget Committee where he wields considerable influence. It’s only the urgency of the moment that would compel him to act now.
Ryan is unquestionably the most important Republican today. Even if he doesn’t run, it will be the Ryan domestic agenda that the GOP nominee will carry into the campaign. Few other than Ryan himself have the knowledge and conviction to do this effectively. Republican Jane Corwin had neither the knowledge nor the conviction and she lost the special election in New York’s 26th Congressional district last May. It’s not rocket science. Even lacking Ryan’s expertise, all she had to say was that Ryan’s plan saves Medicare, the status quo destroys it. Corwin’s failure must not be repeated on a national scale.