Post-electoral hangovers can often end up feeling like a bad Sunday morning for defeated political parties. This has proven to be the case for the Republican Party, as it has struggled to recover from its rough night in November 2008. With the 2010 midterms on the horizon, the party is currently looking for new leaders and a new vision that can serve as the coffee and greasy food hangover cure it desperately craves.
Now I am not exactly comparing him to a McDonald’s Big Mac, but one of the first Republican politicians to emerge on the national stage with an idea more substantial than the Party of No’s usual fare is Wisconsin’s very own Congressional Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville. Ryan’s forte is fiscal policy, so his idea of choice is a Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal articulation of a GOP budget plan that counters President Obama’s efforts to turn the United States into Sweden. The document, titled “A Road Map for America’s Future,” has made Ryan’s name known on the national stage and may prove to be the money road for his own future.
The main Republican voices to emerge during the first year of the Obama presidency have been money-coveting hacks, such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who make Alan Keyes look like a policy wonk. Congressional Republicans have not been better, with leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell taking their D.A.R.E. education a little too seriously in saying “no” to everything the Democratic Congress proposes. This strategery may prove to be successful in the 2010 midterms, but for the sake of the nation, hopefully the Republican Party will have to develop an idea more hefty than “no” to win in November.
With the Republican leadership providing little substance, Rep. Ryan’s Road Map has made him a focal point in the national debate over the growing federal deficit. Political platitudes do not create good debate, so putting forth an actual plan is a bold step that cannot help but bring attention. Paul Krugman used his New York Times opinion column to criticize the plan, and President Obama even gave Ryan a SO during his speech at last month’s GOP retreat.
Representative Ryan is an ambitious and charismatic politician who has already proven his dedication to the issue of federal fiscal policy. His decision to publish his Road Map is reminiscent of a bold move by another ambitious politician seeking to rise within a devastated Republican Party. That other Republican was none other than Tricky Dick: Richard Nixon.
Prior to this summer, I knew Richard Nixon only as the “I am not a crook” guy. That changed after I read Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland,” which is an epic story of Nixon’s rise to the presidency (I really mean epic, not the Californian bastardization of the word.) One striking thing about Nixon described in the book is that he was a hella shrewd politician who excelled in the game of politics.
After electoral defeats in 1960 and 1962, Nixon waited patiently through the Goldwater debacle while slowly plotting his return to power within the GOP. In 1966, with the Vietnam War raging, Nixon published a critique of President Johnson’s handling of the war in The New York Times. In articulating a Republican criticism of Vietnam, Nixon established himself as Johnson’s primary foe in the Vietnam debate and a legitimate contender for the White House in 1968.
Clearly, the federal deficit does not have the same gravitas as Vietnam did, but Rep. Ryan’s insertion of himself into the national debate on an important issue was still a bold move. It now remains to be seen if the move will pay off for him as it did for Richard Nixon in 1968.
There are those folks who would argue that making an entrance on the national stage with a budget plan built on the philosophy of Ayn Rand is not exactly a political winner, as Ryan’s Road Map includes plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security along with a decent number of tax cuts. However, this is just the kind of anti-government talk that has been revving up the Republican base during the Tea Party extravaganza brewing across the country.
I have no idea how Ryan’s type of thinking will play on the streets, so I will leave it to my colleague Jim and the next edition of “Allard Shrugged” to tell you about the awesomeness of the Road Map and how it is going to propel Rep. Ryan to GOP super-stardom. What I do know is that such a political gambit that makes a politician a debating partner of the opposing party has worked in the past, so perhaps the Road Map will work for Wisconsin’s Rep. Ryan as well.
Zachary Schuster (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graduate student studying water resources engineering and water resources management.