TW: class warfare, climate change denialism, sexism, heterosexism, excessive force by police
Quickly look around you. Remember your surroundings, because your life has forever changed. You’ll tell your grandchildren (or at least some one’s grandchildren) where you were, when you were told that Mitt Romney asked Wisconsin congressional representative Paul Ryan to be his running mate in the 2012 Presidential Election. That’s essentially the tone of a number of opinion pieces released over this past weekend, which insist that something somehow has significantly changed in the election because of this announcement. After all, Romney picked Ryan.
The main crux of one CNN op-ed among others was that Ryan’s specific economic plans will be either an albatross around Romney’s neck or the linchpin to convincing voters to support Romney. Either way, this is apparently a big change that will start “a healthy debate to have during a presidential election” on “competing philosophies of government”. While the Obama campaign of course already has a critical ad airing specifically addressing what Ryan brings to the ticket, it merely joins a suite of earlier responses to a competing vision of the American class structure and purpose of government, most memorably the tax calculator. While Ryan does bring a specific budgetary plan to the ticket, Romney himself did eventually provide some details prior to his selection of Ryan. Without that information the tax calculator wouldn’t have been possible. There already were some specifics in the race, even if not as many as there are now.
Even with political issues arising because of broader economic policies, like climate change, the Romney and Ryan are rather similar. Ryan is still remembered in environmentalist circles for his 2009 declaration which implied that the heavy levels of snow in December suggested little reason to introduce economic regulations to prevent climate change. Romney early in the Republican primary insisted that global warming was unknown to be anthropogenic. Denial of the scientific evidence is something they have both participated in, as it provides cover for continuing to do precisely what all of their other economic policies aim to do: protect the interests of the most wealthy Americans.
Hay has been made for years at this point over Paul Ryan’s age, but that difference between him and Romney appears to have very little substantive impact on policy. Romney is trapped by his promises early in the Republican primary to defund Planned Parenthood, but Ryan doesn’t soften the ticket with an appeal to younger generations’ more sexually liberal politics. Instead, he only exacerbates the ticket’s clear problem with women having individual control of their reproductive health. Likewise, on the issue of LGBT rights, with which the Republican Party now disagrees with a majority of young voters, Ryan’s voting history only furthers the difference between that voter demographic and the ticket. Prior to the secret negotiation of the ticket even, Romney’s campaign had already begun to shift emphasis towards the seemingly endless “culture wars” and in line with Ryan’s opinions. Instead of connecting with demographics alienated by Mitt Romney’s proposed socially conservative policies, this pick has replicated the same disagreement.
The last vestige of claims that Ryan is somehow part of a huge break in the Romney campaign rests on the belief that Ryan somehow operates as a candidate differently from Romney. Returning the unfortunately entirely wrong-headed CNN op-ed, Ryan is somehow going to be the star power on the ticket and will “explain [policy decisions] in ways that resonate with a swing district in a rust belt state” – invoking Reagan in all but name. He seems to sometimes lack that supposed connection with the common voter, having calmly joked while having an elderly man restrained and arrested for asking him a question at a public meeting. Even during the process of vetting him for the position of Vice President, Ryan seemed eager to play along with Romney’s unusual security demands. How easily can Ryan appeal as an alleged populist if multiple news reports have commented on his zeal for secrecy from the average person? Does that remind anyone of another incident involving deception? Again, both Ryan and Romney have more in common than most realize, including their ability to sell themselves as moderates and populists, which isn’t very impressive.
Ultimately, it seems that the Romney campaign selected someone who highlighted the Presidential nominee’s own policy proposals and attitudes. As Joe Williams (who was suspended by Politico for this observation) said, “Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him.” That need for similarity extends even to his Vice Presidential nominee.