When Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin got the nod as Romney’s running mate the question became what does he bring to the ticket? VP’s are chosen for various reasons. They can fill in the Presidential candidate’s weak spots like Cheney did for Bush. They can add a nice contrast to the Presidential candidate like Biden did for Obama. They can excite the base like Palin did for McCain. So what does Ryan do for Romney?
Well, Ryan doesn’t help with the healthcare debate. Romney has always struggled on this issue because he was the original architect behind the idea for ‘Obamacare.’ This prompted Rick Santorum to say Romney “would be the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.” Adding Ryan to the ticket may distract from that particular point, but not the healthcare debate in general. Ryan wrote the plan that “would change Medicare as we know it.” His plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system that on average would cost seniors $6,400 more a year has received criticism not only from the left, but from senior citizens’ groups as well. So Ryan may take some heat off Romney’s record in Massachusetts, but he replaces it with a new wave of attacks.
Ryan also doesn’t help with the perception that Romney only cares about the wealthy. Ryan may not be an east-cost millionaire with multiples homes, Swiss bank accounts, and a dressage horse, but his proposals sure seem to help people like that. The Ryan plan, like Romney’s plan, is filled with huge tax cuts for the wealthy that are somehow paid for by closing (yet to be specified) loopholes. Realistically, the only way to pay for those tax cuts is to close loopholes that benefit the middle and lower class like the home mortgage interest deduction and the earned income tax credit. His budget also cuts Medicaid (even more than Medicare) and other programs geared toward helping the less affluent. Whether you agree or disagree with Ryan’s plan, it’s hard to argue he is someone who represents the middle-class.
Another problem Romney has is his inability to seem, for lack of a better term, human. He is awkward on stage and in interviews, and just does not seem comfortable as a politician. Ryan should help a little with this, as he is a career politician. But in reality, Ryan is more of a policy wonk than an everyday guy. He’s a technocrat that is good at explaining his position. So he may make Romney seem relatively more personable, but in no way will it be a big factor in the election.
In a lot of respects Ryan does very little for Romney. But Ryan does one thing for Romney that should frighten everyone.
The one thing I believe Ryan does for Romney is he will without a doubt sure up a base that was once skeptical of Romney. That’s troubling. Ending Medicare, slashing Medicaid, and drastically reducing the size and scope of government are all concerns of mine; however, I am more concerned that those problems will be amplified due to Ryan’s unabashed support from the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party.
By choosing Ryan, Romney strengthens a base that is increasingly moving further and further to the right. Ryan strengthens a base that puts ideology before facts, preconceived notions before reality, and flawed beliefs before the truth. He strengthens a base that has created such a huge divide in this country that moderates no longer exist and compromise is a dirty word. Ryan will sure up a base whose policies if actually implemented will change American society for the worse. The idea of a second chance will no longer be embedded in American culture, but rather become analogous with socialism and a society dependent on government. Ryan will sure up a base that wants to cut any and all government programs, restrict access to healthcare, and send the economy into a tailspin; all in the name of what they consider fiscal responsibility. He gives credence to a base that believes freedom itself stems from lowering the national debt – no matter what that cost is to the average American citizen.
The consequence of giving those ideals a national platform and a credible voice is frightening in an election, which could be heavily determined by base turnout.