By Don Hazen
When 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. My colleague, Joshua Holland, called it Romney’s biggest mistake. 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. My gut told me that, for the Republican vice presidential candidate, I would much rather have a non-entity like Portman or Pawlenty as the Republican than a right-wing rock star. Any day.
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, if it 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, 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 nine 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 9 percent among all voters and 11 percent 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.