Must-read: Paul Ryan: “To Tea Party: You Are the Problem”
Must-Read: It is very good to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan call for legislatin’ rather than speechifyin’. Prospects for substantive dialogue are vastly increased when it is legislatin’ that is on the table, as are prospects for win-win technocratic governance.
Now if we could only get him into the policy-consequences-estimatin’ business as well…
To Tea Party: You Are the Problem: “My theory of the case is this…:
…We win when we have an ideas contest. We lose when we have a personality contest. We can’t fall into the progressives’ trap of acting like angry reactionaries. The Left would love nothing more than for a fragmented conservative movement to stand in a circular firing squad, so the progressives can win by default. This president is struggling to remain relevant in an election year when he’s not on the ballot. He is going to do all he can to elect another progressive by distracting the American people. So he’s going to try to get us talking about guns or some other hot-button issue and not about his failures on ISIS or the economy or national security. He’s going to try to knock us off our game. We have to understand his distractions for what they are. Otherwise, we’re going to have a distraction this week, next week, and the week after that. And that’s going to be the Obama playbook all year long….
And so what I want to say to you today is this: Don’t take the bait. Don’t fight over tactics. And don’t impugn people’s motives. It’s fine if you disagree. And there’s a lot that’s rotten in Washington. There’s no doubt about that. But we can’t let how you vote on an amendment to an appropriations bill define what it means to be a conservative. Because, it’s setting our sights too low. Frankly, that’s letting the president define us. That’s what he wants us to do. That’s defining ourselves as an opposition party, instead of a proposition party.
So we have to be straight with each other, and more importantly, we have to be straight with the American people. We can’t promise that we can repeal Obamacare when a guy with the last name Obama is president. All that does is set us up for failure… and disappointment… and recriminations.
When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House, all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House. We can’t do that anymore.
The extremely-sharp Paul Waldman comments:
Yes, the party of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, cares not for ‘personality.’ And look, nobody ‘trapped’ Republicans into ‘acting like angry reactionaries.’ They did that all on their own. But it’s interesting that Ryan cites guns as a distracting hot-button issue that is important only because Barack Obama is forcing conservatives to talk about it against their will…. It’s hard to tell where Ryan draws the line between real issues and distractions, but every time you define an issue as the latter, you’re telling some major Republican constituency to shut its mouth….
Look at all the things Ryan is criticizing here. First: ‘Don’t fight over tactics.’ That’s just about all Republicans have been fighting about for years…. The tea partier and the squish both want to repeal Obamacare; the only difference between them is that the tea partier thinks shutting down the government is an appropriate tactic to make it happen. They both want to reduce the size of government, but the tea partier thinks forcing the United States of America to default on its debts is a good tactic to bring that about. They both want to defund Planned Parenthood; the only difference is whether they think it’s a fight worth having right now.
Ryan also says: ‘we can’t let how you vote on an amendment to an appropriations bill define what it means to be a conservative.’ This, too, is a direct shot at the Tea Party. The argument they’ve made over and over is that things like how you vote on an amendment do indeed define what it means to be a conservative…. Did you vote against Obamacare 50 times, or only 49 times? Did you knuckle under and vote to keep the government open? Have you opposed ‘amnesty’ 100 percent of the time, or only for the last few years? These are the distinctions that have defined the tea party’s conception of conservatism.
And perhaps most shockingly, Ryan says…. ‘When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House, all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House.’ This is the very heart of the battle that has consumed the party and fed the rebellion playing out in the presidential race. Republican base voters are fed up with a congressional leadership that told them that if those voters helped take back the House and then the Senate, that they’d stop Barack Obama in his tracks–but then failed to deliver.
Ryan is correctly arguing that it was stupid to make promises that couldn’t possibly be kept, but he’s arguing that it was making the promise that was the problem, while tea partiers and the base still believe it was the not keeping the promise that was the far greater sin. They see Mitch McConnell and Ryan’s predecessor John Boehner as feckless and weak, lacking the courage to stand up to Barack Obama. In their view, McConnell and Boehner are contemptible not because they lied to them about what could be achieved but because they didn’t achieve the impossible.
Near the end of the speech, Ryan gives an implicit critique of his party’s presidential candidates…. ‘We should not follow the Democrats and play identity politics. Let’s talk to people in ways that unite us and that are unique to America’s founding. That’s what I think people are hungry for.’ In case you didn’t notice, the GOP presidential candidates are also playing identity politics right now. The frontrunner for the Republican nomination has proposed banning Muslims from the United States and building a wall across our southern border, called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and questioned one of his opponents’ standing as an American. Another candidate said that no Muslim should be elected president…. Identity politics has been central to Republican campaigns for the White House for the last half-century…. In any case, if you had to come up with two words to describe the current GOP presidential campaign, ‘inspirational’ and ‘inclusive’ would be pretty far down the list. And if Republican primary voters are hungry for national unity, they’ve done a good job of keeping it a secret.
So in this speech, Ryan has essentially repudiated the entire last seven years of Republican politics, up to and including what’s happening right now…