Why Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin

As Mitt Romney’s pick introduces himself to Americans, it’s worth noting how different he is from other VP nominees


When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate, there were inevitable comparisons to John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin. They were both served up as red meat to the conservative Republicans who were never quite comfortable with McCain or Romney.

Palin electrified the 2008 Republican convention with her  pitbull-with-lipstick speech. (In the campaign movie Game Change, Julianne Moore doesn’t even come close to capturing the hard-edged energy that Palin delivered that night.)

Now as Ryan prepares to introduce himself to the country with his convention speech tonight, it’s worth noting just how different he is from Palin.

Palin came up through grassroots politics, a small-town city council member and mayor before becoming Alaska’s governor. Her out-of-the-blue selection sent the press into a feeding frenzy of trying to figure out who she was: her influences, her ideas, her record. Who was this woman and what did she stand for, really? When Katie Couric famously asked her what newspapers she reads, Palin took it as a condescending gotcha question, not the softball it was probably meant to be.

Congressman Paul Ryan could not be more different from Palin. While he styles himself as a homespun Wisconsinite, he’s more a creature of Washington, DC and the product of a conservative movement that has been engaged in ideological purification of the Republican Party. Romney’s pick was less about the man himself, and more as an embrace of a specific collection of ideas, influences and personal networks he represents. Ryan is the product of Capitol Hill staff meetings and conservative Washington think tanks. He is the result of an evolution within the Republican Party that began well beyond the financial crisis and the Tea Party rallies.

Ryan is the fruit of a decades-long cross-pollination of the individualist philosophy of Ayn Rand, the economic theories of Friedrich Hayek, the theology of the Catholic Church, and the mentorship of supply-siders like Jack Kemp (architect of the 1981 Reagan tax cut and Ryan’s predecessor as the G.O.P. vice presidential nominee 16 years ago,) and the tutelage of social conservative Bill Bennett.

The Ryan Budget (proposed by Ryan in his role as the chairman of the House Budget Committee) represents these ideas in action. In this sense, the details of Paul Ryan the person become merely a footnote to Paul Ryan the idea. And Romney’s choice of Ryan seems to be more about embracing that idea – and with it, the enthusiasm, machinery, and foot-soldiers of the conservative movement – than about winning a particular state (as opposed to senator Rob Portman, another potential veep pick who represents the crucial swing state of Ohio) or demographic (in contrast to senator Marco Rubio, who not only represents the swing state of Florida but is also Hispanic) or tapping into personal charisma (like New Jersey governor Chris Christie).

Ryan may have less executive experience than did Palin, who was a governor after all, but he’s seen as someone who has thought about the big challenges facing the country and staked out a position, however unsatisfactory. (His proposed budget has been attacked by Democrats, who say its tax cuts would grow the deficit, while Newt Gingrich once denounced Ryan’s proposal to transform Medicare for seniors into a voucher system as  “right-wing social engineering.”) And, it’s worth noting that Ryan is a creature of Congress – a place where any president needs allies, as President Obama can attest.

While Palin seemed to be putting together her policy positions on national issues on the fly once she was a vice-presidential candidate, Ryan’s life work has been the translation of his ideology into policy, long before he was elected to office.

It was the more earthy kind of politics that come naturally to Sarah Palin that posed a challenge to Ryan. Today, a New York Times profile of Ryan includes a striking description of his first run for Congress in 1998 as a then young and unmarried man who had left the world of Washington policy wonks to return to his home state seeking votes:

Mr. Ryan would often take his sister-in-law and her baby to factories during the early-morning shift changes to campaign. “Lots and lots of people were getting the impression that was his wife and his baby, and this was critical for him,” [his Democratic opponent, Lydia] Spottswood said.

He also made advertisements in which he wore a hard hat, which left voters with “the impression of Paul that he was actively working in the construction trade and had a family and was older than he was,” she said.

“It was awesome to watch it,” she added. “It was like an acting job.”

Ryan won that race and has been consistently reelected ever since.





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Why Paul Ryan is no Sarah Palin

  1. A true salesman of the right wing ideological Kool-aid. If you leave more money in the hands of those who already have most of it the economy and people in general will do better. The evidence to the contrary doesn’t matter — the 23 trillion in off-shore bank accounts doesn’t matter – the fact that the wealthy already have more than enough capital to finance any venture where they see a profit doesn’t matter — the fact that the shrinking middle class are the ones who patronize those small businesses that the right always point to doesn’t matter — the only thing that matters is that the folks the Republican politicians want to please (and benefit from) like the message.

  2. Ryan is just as big a flake as Palin. Same ignoramus ideology. It makes no difference that he puts it down in numbers, because the numbers don’t add up.

    I hope Ryan will get his shot at running the economy. His GDP-busting austerity measures and big tax cuts for the rich will push the teetering US economy over the edge and double the deficit.

    It’s just what America and the world need: absolute proof that free-market ideologues know nothing about economics. (Too bad destroying post-war living standards and causing a second global economic meltdown wasn’t good enough…)

    • Speaking of doubling the deficit, were you watching what happened during the last four years, particularly the first two when the Democrats still controlled Congress?

      • Bush Jr. created a massive structural deficit that exploded when the financial meltdown triggered the Great Recession (from which the global economy has yet to recover.)

        When a country is in recession it produces big deficits; the same is true in Canada where the Harper Government turned a $14B surplus to a $56B deficit. (Impossible to know what the real deficit is now, although the Budget Officer Harper appointed is suing the government to get access to the public budget documents…)

        If Ryan gets in, he will double the existing massive deficit.

        But, like in the post-war era, the only way to pay down massive debt is with high GDP growth. Austerity measures are self-defeating because they kill GDP growth, cause recession and end up worsening the deficit.

        As Keynes said, “the boom, not the bust, is the time for austerity.” And he was right. In the post-war era using his economic system, Canada paid down debt from 100% debt/GDP to 17% (now 85%); the US paid down debt from 135% to 35% (now 103%.)

  3. Well he’s no MLF….although in this photo Romney looks like he might be willing to try ….but he’s definitely a dingbat, just like Caribou Barbie.

    • Good link. I didn’t know much about Ryan before this; i wish i still didn’t really. Another politcal opportunist who’s prepared to drop his principles at the drop of a Vice Presidential hat/ticket – just what America needs.

  4. The intersection of the set of Catholicism and Objectivism is the null set. One cannot be a Catholic and Objectivist, unless one is delusional.

    Atheism and abortion are essential to Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. And well, any religion is absolutely taboo to a “real” Objectivist.

    Since Paul Ryan supposedly passes around copies of Atlas Shrugged, he is a fake Christian/Catholic.

    Ergo. Paul Ryan is basically delusioinal, purporting to advocate absolutely contradictory “religiions”.

    But then he voted for all of W’s spending programs, including the expansion of Medicare, without raising any funds to pay for it, so that Paul Ryan is “delusional” should not be surprising to anyone.

    Romney chose Ryan to keep the Tea Party base motivated. This election will be about turnout. Whoever gets their voters to the polls wins.

    Obama has been a massive disappointment. The “progressive” base is pretty de-motivated. Obama hasn’t prosecuted a single bankster.

    There is really no choice down south. It is tweedle dee, and tweedle dum. The banksters own both parties.

    Obama has proven himself a tool of the banksters. Does it really matter if Romney is elected? Same difference.

    The election is kabuki theatre.

    • Rand was an atheist, but one could be religious and Objectivist. Abortion has nothing to do with it, anymore than abortion has anything to do with Jesus.

      And yes it matters if Romney wins….the US goes down the toilet.

      • Is this clear enough? Objectivisim is unambigously pro-abortion.
        From aynrand.org:
        Excerpt from “Of Living Death” in The Objectivist, October 1968:
        An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”

        • Honey, I can recite you pages of Ayn Rand from memory so don’t be cute.

          Rand answered questions from various people, and here she simply said it was the woman’s choice….but Objectivism as a philosophy has nowt to do with abortion.

      • Again, pretty unambiguous, Objectivism is atheistic:

        From Atlas Shrugged:

        They claim that they perceive a mode of being superior to your existence on this earth. The mystics of spirit call it “another dimension,” which consists of denying dimensions. The mystics of muscle call it “the future,” which consists of denying the present. To exist is to possess identity. What identity are they able to give to their superior realm? They keep telling you what it is not, but never tell you what it is. All their identifications consist of negating: God is that which no human mind can know, they say—and proceed to demand that you consider it knowledge—God is non-man, heaven is non-earth, soul is non-body, virtue is non-profit, A is non-A, perception is non-sensory, knowledge is non-reason. Their definitions are not acts of defining, but of wiping out.

        • Pay attention…..Rand is a huge star on the rightwing….she was also an atheist. Hey, it’s your philosophy, so don’t blame me

          You cannot serve both God and mammon

        • PS….that quote is not Rand, it is Leonard Peikoff …a disciple of Rand.

        • Silly generalizations being pawned off as philosophy. I think I’d rather blow my brains out than suffer 1200 pages of that…

    • This may surprise you, but it is logically possible for two ideologies to be opposed, and yet to have elements within them which are not only mutually consistent but even true.

      As an example: Christianity and Islam are in principle incompatible, yet both hold that it is wrong to murder one’s child, which is true.

      I think that wipes out most of your argument concerning Ryan. As for whether he is the same as Obama, look to the Ryan Plan vs. Obama’s record concerning the deficit, and reconsider your position.

      • Yes, but there are certain fundamental values in Christianity (such as charity is good) that are in direct opposition with fundamental values in Objectivism (such as charity is bad)

        Trying to hold both means either a person is unaware of the fundamental nature of the tenets s/he is espousing, or, as whyshould states, delusional.

        • Yes, that would be applicable if Ryan were both a Christian and an Objectivist. However, that Ryan “passes around copies of Atlas Shrugged” does not make him an objectivist, any more than me passing around copies of Newton’s Principia makes me a Newtonian. What it does suggest is that he sees certain elements in Rand’s philosophy which he agrees with and which he thinks she expresses well.

          In general, a philosophical system is usually complex enough that one can agree with some of it, and perhaps even a lot of it, without actually adhering to the whole system. Trying to hold that someone who likes Atlas Shrugged is an Objectivist means either a person is unaware of the fundamental nature of the tenets she is espousing, or, one suspects, delusional.

          • That’s nice. But those aren’t the goalposts you started with.

      • Actually Jews,Christians and Muslims share the Old Testament. Muslims also believe in Jesus.

        I’m afraid they all have the same principles.

    • I am sad for my American friends that this is one time where I completely agree with you.

  5. Another dead-eyed, child-of-the-corn Randroid, Ryan tends to forget that he benefited from the state ‘largesse’ he now pretends to rail against. As a U.S. Rep, he voted for every one of Bush 43s deficit raises. He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with that ape Todd Akin. Plus, he’s never really had a job – summer camp canoe humping aside – outside of the public sphere. He’s not helping Romney one bit and will do less so the more the Democrats hammer him on his record and his intentions. Sure, he’s only a potential veep, but ‘heartbeat away from the highest office’ and all that…

    Pre-Goldwater, there was such a thing as an American Conservative intellectual. They were good at debate and excelled at being smart and provocative. Those sorts are all sadly absent from the current crop of radicals who self-identify as ‘conservatives’ today. Now there’s a bunch of jingo gringos in stupid RWB tri-corner hats who haven’t a clue what they stand for other than ‘not the Kenyan socialist usurper who isn’t really ‘Murican anyhoo’.

    • If I was in the US I’d be an Eisenhower Republican….I liked Ike.

      Do today’s Repubs even remember him?

      • Ike must be rolling in his grave considering the likes of today’s Republicans…

        • Very likely! They aren’t conservative, or actual Republicans …..or even remotely christian

          Ignorant, illiterate supremacists, mostly

    • I’m guessing you’ve never actually met or spoken with a Tea Party supporter, judging from how distorted your view of them seems to be. MSNBC “journalists” are not the most accurate source of information concerning their political opponents.

  6. Interesting points, particularly the observation that Ryan’s ideas are an interesting result of many disparate philosophical inputs that have been distilled into something all his own.

    Personally I much prefer an election about ideas than personalities. We’ll see if the American electorate views it the same way.

    • Ryan’s ‘ideas’…like Akins, are from the 13th century

      Not an era anyone needs to be discussing

      • His Thomistic ideas may be from the 13th century, yes. Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, though, so you’re off by about 400 years there, and Atlas Shrugged came out in the 20th century, so you may not have heard of it yet.

        It is somewhat absurd (but very Emilean) to suggest, however, that Thomistic thought from the 13th century is unworthy of discussion.

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