Former 2012 Vice Presidential candidate and chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, has had a rash of success. Ryan worked to engineer the budget compromise in late 2013 that capped spending within the 2011 Budget Control Act spending limits and ensured the government would not shut down yet again. Ryan also recently released a 200 page document showing the waste and repetitive government organizations that should be streamlined to create greater efficiency and cost savings.
For these reasons alone liberals should fear Paul Ryan. A budget wonk, he is far from a bomb-thrower. Illustrating this is the fact liberals are trying to paint Ryan as a racist for his comments on the “inner city culture” of poverty seen in America. Democrats took this to mean Ryan was attacking only blacks and Hispanics. In truth, Ryan was talking about the fact in virtually every major city in the US, whether filled with whites or another racial group, the number of poor far exceeds those in suburban and exurban communities.
Ryan has proven his political acumen by winning wide victories in his suburban Wisconsin Congressional district. While Obama won the district in 08 Ryan won in a landslide. In 2012, Ryan won the district by far exceeding his and Romney’s margins on the “other” ticket. Democrats are loath to admit it but Ryan fits his district perfectly, especially after 2011 redistricting. Ryan also could be an integral part of remaking the image of the GOP from an antiquated, fire-breathing party to one that focuses on pocketbook issues and streamlining government.
Ryan continues to swear he has no interest in running for the White House in 2016. The number of top-tier candidates considering running make this highly plausible. In 2009. Republicans wanted him to challenge than Senator Russ Feingold (D). Ryan demurred, preferring to stay in the House and wait for a GOP takeover (it occurred a year later). Now, many believe Ryan can make a bigger difference as chair of the House Budget Committee.
Ryan has already put his toe in the water for greater political aspirations. In 2011, his Medicare Reform idea met strong support and opposition. His 2012 run gave him nationwide ID with Republicans and his 2013 budget compromise showed he can work both sides of the aisle, even while risking alienating the party base. But running for President in the short-term may be a bridge to far. Along with fellow nerd and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ryan seems more interested in forging a reform agenda from a less public stage.
Beyond the fact Ryan is a hard target to paint as a racist, bomb-thrower or GOP hack, liberals would be wise to note that Ryan has worked on a number of other issues with Democrats. He helped sponsor legislation to expand charter schools nationally and has been working with House Democrats to start talks on a grand bargain (likely tax cuts/hikes and SS and Medicare Reform). Democrats should also note that Ryan has sponsored tax reform that benefits the working poor by doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating the marriage penalty (though this would benefit better off couples as well).
Ryan’s working class roots also aid his reform minded goals. Ryan’s reform efforts are not doctrinaire conservative fair. They seem to strike a more populist tone that seeks to benefit all instead of certain groups as both parties cater to. Lastly, Ryan’s history does not consist of skeletons in the closet, ensuring future runs for higher office, if he goes that route, cannot be derailed by his past actions. Still, his policy positions can be lightning rods for supports and opponents alike. Democrats are unlikely to let the public forget he planned to “Throw grandma off the cliff.”
Liberals should fear Paul Ryan. He may never be President but he has the ability, in policy and tone, to change the course of this nation back on a sound fiscal track.