It's a big step toward getting the Koch brothers' hand-picked star close to the presidency.
Ryan: Looking to 2016? Illustration by DonkeyHotey via Creative Commons license.
When U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan, the 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, to be his running mate, progressives went on a happy-thon. That Romney chose the House Budget Committee chairman known as the architect of draconian budgets that would make huge cuts in every aspect of the safety net -- not to mention his quest to turn Medicare into a voucher program -- just seemed like a major blunder. Many were gleeful and shocked that Romney would seemingly play right into the Obama message on how the Romney agenda harms the middle class.
But I wasn't so happy. The Romney decision signals several things about the future, and none of them good -- rather scary and ugly, as a matter of fact.
Progressives are right when they say Ryan represents everything that shows how out of touch the Republicans are with the needs of the country. But they are not looking at Romney's Ryan decision for what it is -- a hugely dangerous step toward getting the Koch brothers' hand-picked star right to the verge of the presidency, which, should it come to pass, could dramatically transform the nature of American politics for our lifetimes. Whether Romney wins or loses, the Ryan pick poses a threat to the well-being of the nation.
If Romney wins, then Ryan occupies the Number Two spot with a money base and huge constituency of his own, far more than any vice president has ever enjoyed. With his own leadership PAC and a close relationship to the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity astroturf group, it is hard to imagine how Ryan doesn't immediately become a co-president or, at least, the most powerful VP in history. And, this is a win-win for Charles and David Koch, the right-wing billionaire brothers: If Romney loses, then Paul Ryan is sitting pretty to be the nominee in 2016, when there is no incumbent... a far easier race to win after eight years of President Barack Obama, the Democrat, presiding over a difficult economy whose recovery Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct. I have always felt that many conservatives intent on taking over this country, known for their long vision and patience, have this strategy.
And on the ugly side, the choice of Ryan says this Romney campaign, in contrast to even the McCain campaign, will be a no-holds-barred, vicious personal attack on Obama and everything associated with the Democrats -- scapegoating unions, public employees, poor people, immigrants, people characterized by Ryan as the "takers, not the makers." This is the way the conservatives know how to win campaigns, and they are going all out to rip the Dems to shreds. If it doesn't quite work in in this year's presidential race, they could very well control of both houses of Congress come January.
Here are ten reasons that Romney pulled the trigger on Ryan, and why they make a lot of sense:
1. Romney was in danger of losing badly, so a gamble was worth the risk. The polls and trends were going in the wrong direction as Obama was ahead by nine per cent among all voters and 11 per cent among independents. As Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Post:
"Romney was on course to lose the election ... perhaps by a landslide.... Independents, despite being unhappy with Obama, were even more unhappy with Romney. And too many Republicans remain unenthusiastic about their party's nominee.
So Romney had to do something to energize the campaign, or he was dead in the water. Pick Ryan.
2. Romney is now seen as bold. By picking a controversial choice, a young, mediagenic, so-called brainy numbers guy, and one loved by the conservative base, Romney passed up the gaggle of more boring white guys who populated the pundits' predictions, to pick the radical one. But here, in fact, Romney has it both ways. Ryan is a well-positioned Republican with major mainstream and corporate credibility, whom the media often has gone ga-ga over. And Ryan is an insider -- Erskine Bowles (the co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission, and rumored to be the next Secretary of the Treasury), has lavished lots of praise on to Ryan, who served on the commission, as have many others.
3. Did I mention Ryan is Catholic? We hear how the conservative Catholic bishops are trying to push Catholic voters to Romney, who has obviously come late to his anti-abortion stance. And among Catholic voters, Romney's Mormonism isn't exactly a plus. Still any anti-abortion politician is better than Obama in the bishops' minds. For the bishops, their task became easier with Ryan (even if they have a problem or two with his budget proposal), who is as conservative as they come, being against abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Those Catholics who are inclined to vote conservative are now very excited. And, in fact, it's not just far-right Catholics to whom Ryan appeals. A lot of voters in this country, for some reason, really like candidates who stick to rigid principles, even if those principles contradict their own. Ryan will get some of those voters.
4. Romney now has even more money. Romney has been doing fine, raising hundreds of millions from investment bankers and other pots of big wealth from the 1/10th of the top one per cent. Still the Ryan choice is a huge motivator to the group of rabid right-wing billionaires around Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who fund and raise money for right-wing candidates, and an array of right-wing groups. Ryan has been a Koch favorite for years, supported and featured in myriad ways. The Kochs have promised, with Karl Rove, to raise $400 million for the so-called "independent superPACs." Now, with all those billionaires jazzed over Ryan, the sky may be the limit. There is talk of the superPACs and the Romney campaign raising and spending $1.2 billion -- and now maybe even more.
5. Romney gets the full Koch election infrastructure. Solidifying the alliance with the Kochs is even more about infrastructure than campaign dollars, which will be plentiful. As Alternet's Adele Stan, who covers the Kochs and conservative election field operations, explains:
"The Kochs, via Americans for Prosperity and Faith and Freedom Coalition, own the infrastructure for the ground game in the swing states. They've been building it for years. That's not something any amount of money can build in the three months leading up to the election. Romney really, really needs Koch buy-in."