I sort of like Paul Ryan, though he’s not a friend of mine. He’s the kind of guy you keep around to make you feel better about yourself. He pumps you up. Insists you can do things you don’t think you can. I can easily see him over my face at 6am imploring me to get up for a jog. Ryan is earnest. Which, as we know, is important. Earnest people are refreshing.
Now if one is having a surly day Ryan types tend to make one feel worse. Sometimes a dude with 8% body fat doesn’t comport with my not-so-secret impulse to sprawl out on the couch and indulge crap TV with a few unhealthy snacks and the remote near by. On these days choom gang friends are easier to have around.
This tension is an interesting dynamic. Romney and Ryan are going to demand something of us as the Fall campaign unfolds. It may be b.s., a cover so the rich can get richer…whatever. But the R and R campaign will still lead with “We can do it!” Oddly, the hope candidate of 2008 will lead with “Stop those people, they’ve come to loot your house!” Which is a bit funny since they’ve aided and abetted looting for 4 years. Nevertheless, Obama will sell the fear. And often fear works.
Obama’s selling fear but his slogan is the inane non sequitur ”Forward!” (which feels more like warning than a campaign slogan.) It’s clear ‘Hope and Change’ was meaningless but it met the moment. Forward doesn’t suit this moment at all. It implies the country has moved forward in the last 4 years and must continue. Not even die-hard Democrats believe this. If they did they’d be selling Obama’s accomplishments. They aren’t. They’re selling fear of RomneyRyan. This is because…
…Obama has no plan. In the Ryan budget R and R have one for all to see – and it’s a tough sell. It is even scary, but not in a horror movie way. It’s scary because we’re in a scary transition. New Deal assumptions are on the way out. No matter who one thinks should win - entitlement reform is here. Obama will do it. Romney will do it. W was supposed to do it in 2005. We weren’t ready then. We’re close to being ready now. The last generation with true New Deal assumptions is moving into retirement. Generation X assumes Social Security and Medicare as constituted now won’t be around to help them in retirement. Cynicism about those programs is very nearly in our DNA.
RomneyRyan are, at the very least, telling the truth about what’s coming. Obama isn’t and won’t – unless he wins. At which time Obama will “reform” in one way or another. If he wins he’ll probably lead from behind on this too. He’ll let others do the dirty work, sign off on it, then blame those who did the work. Perhaps he’ll suddenly insist his Simpson-Bowles commission had it right all along.
No matter how it plays out we’re in a sea change moment. One that occurs once every 70 to 90 years. American Revolution, Civil War, New Deal… and Now. Lincoln intuited this cycle with the phrase four score and seven years ago.
I’m not happy about harping on the end of the New Deal. Even my cynical Gen X heart knows I grew up in…well…a great society. But that party is over. I know this too.
Win or lose this time, Ryan and many like him represent the next wave. Ryan was picked because he can sell the shift. And Ryan’s almost earnest enough to make me want to get out of bed for a jog.
- Why Paul Ryan? (douthat.blogs.nytimes.com)