The Paul Ryan Express?
For the politically intrigue-minded wondering what twisted conclusion may come to this year’s version of the Presidential Campaign follies – particularly the outcome of the GOP Klown Kar Mudslinging contest – a relatively new scenario has bubbled up from the depths of the minds of some of the puppet masters behind the scenes. Imagine newly crowned House Speaker and 2012 VP nominee Paul Ryan rising from the remnants of a contested convention as the GOP Presidential Nominee.
This is not as far-fetched as it may sound. The current leading candidate for the nomination, Donald Trump, is by no means a lock for getting the delegate majority required for obtaining the nomination on the first ballot. His faltering performance in recent primaries and caucuses, along with his uncanny ability to get shoe polish all over his wisdom teeth in the course of campaigning, may eventually tick off enough of his following to flush his candidacy down the toilet – something the establishment wing of the party elite and the media pundits have been awaiting ever since he announced his candidacy last year.
The other two announced candidates who have not yet suspended campaigning each has problems limiting his ability to overcome Trump’s delegate lead before the convention. Ted Cruz has, since his election to the Senate from Texas, gone out of his way to alienate just about every other GOP member of that august body. He’s barely more acceptable to the party establishment than Trump is, though he seems slightly less likely to use the Constitution as kindling at his inauguration than Trump were he to be elected. The third candidate, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, has gathered limited support outside his home state. He has virtually no chance left to get the necessary delegates to win a majority on the first ballot, and is already being portrayed by both remaining opponents as merely an annoying obstacle to their winning outright.
The tenor of the campaign to this point has been downright nasty for the most part. Discussion of issues has mostly come as an afterthought to vitriolic insults cast by Trump against anyone who seems to be gaining on him in the polls or in any way insults him personally or his policy proposals. His xenophobic and misogynistic statements, along with his penchant for making statements that seem targeted at gaining support among some portions of the electorate (namely, white males) by denigrating members of other groups have left him with large negatives in polls while still able to win delegates in some key contests. His anti-immigrant and anti-Moslem statements are two cases in point. Dividing the powerless against each other is a time-proven method of maintaining power for the few.
Trump is not an ideal candidate for uniting the party for a general election. Dale Carnegie he is not. But neither is Ted Cruz, whose antics in almost single-handedly shutting down the federal government gained him the enmity of most of the GOP Congressional leadership, which still refuses to endorse him, even if only as an “anybody but Trump” candidate. Kasich is the only mainstream establishment Republican remaining in the race, but he has failed to catch fire, even as his fellow mainstream (ok, as mainstream as this crop could get) candidates dropped out.
For his part, Paul Ryan has stayed out of the fray. After being the Vice Presidential running mate for Mitt Romney in the failed 2012 campaign, he returned to the House as Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee after his high profile tenure as Budget Committee Chair – where he had made a name for himself with budget proposals that went nowhere but stamped him as a hardcore fiscal conservative who was not afraid of ruffling feathers by cutting or restructuring social safety net programs. Seen by many as a potentially formidable candidate for the 2016 nomination in his own right, he refrained from entering the race.
Last year, when John Boehner announced he was stepping down as Speaker of the House, the effort to replace him suffered one misstep after another. In desperation, the House Republicans turned to Ryan to step up and fill the void. At first, he refused. Nobody could blame him. The House GOP had been (and remains) an unruly group, making the job thankless and often fruitless in terms of accomplishing anything. He finally relented and took the reins under conditions more to his liking than others who had preceded him in the job.
With the looming prospect of a disastrous and tempestuous nominating convention in Cleveland this summer, speculation has risen, both in the media and among the major funders, that perhaps Ryan would be an ideal candidate to lead the party out of its seemingly impossible predicament and possibly even win back the White House in the process. Ryan has been totally left out of the Klown Kar circus that has descended on the party nominating process since it began last year and Trump jumped in. He has national name recognition, hasn’t had his stature or reputation sullied by the mudslinging that has ensued among the declared candidates, and has kept a low profile while ostensibly performing his duties as the highest ranking elected Republican in the nation. The fact that the House under his leadership has been no more effective than it was under Boehner has been largely hidden by the media obsession with the antics of Trump, Cruz and the rest of the great pretenders to the crown.
Paul Ryan insists he is not interested in running for President. He further states that only someone who has professed interest in running and announced their candidacy should be nominated at the convention. Sound familiar? I only know Paul Ryan from what he has done in Congress and as Mitt Romney’s running mate, but he does not seem to be suffering from a lack of personal ambition. The fact that he was able to rise above several more senior House members to a position two heartbeats away from the Presidency ON HIS OWN TERMS speaks volumes as to his political astuteness.
Who would be better positioned to pick up the pieces of a badly divided party at the convention than Paul Ryan? He at least had enough respect from his House colleagues to be elected Speaker – no mean feat with that group. He suffers from no ill-will from the tainted campaign that has alienated much of the voting public. He would need to spend little or no time fundraising – the wealthy kingmakers would bestow their millions to his campaign coffers and numerous Super-PACs gratefully to avoid the disaster that would ensue were Trump or Cruz to carry the party banner. Once again, he could ostensibly gain a highly-coveted position with far less effort than that expended by most others seeking the post.
Perhaps most importantly, a Paul Ryan who hasn’t been damaged politically from the incendiary rhetoric that has plagued this campaign from its outset would have an advantage over whichever Democratic opponent he faced for that very reason. In that sense, he is more dangerous as an opponent than either Trump or Cruz. He has consistently put forth a legislative agenda that protects a status quo of increasing economic and political inequality and strengthens the power of the elites he has chosen to serve at the expense of 99% of the rest of population. Unlike Trump and Cruz, who are rightly seen by most as wildcards who can’t be trusted to serve the power brokers without causing all Hell to break loose in the process, he would probably be seen as a more desirable choice than Clinton (that Sanders would not even be remotely acceptable to Wall Street power goes without saying).
Perhaps Ryan genuinely does not want the job. I, for one, never want him or anyone like him to gain that kind of power. However, in this environment, the GOP establishment would be a den of fools to not go all out to try to persuade him to accept the nomination. That is, of course, if they can keep Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and their followers from the sort of violence in Cleveland they seem capable of producing.
In any case, we must make sure that Ryan or whoever else ends up with the GOP nomination does not get the chance to create the sort of society we would face if the forces seeking to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and any other program beneficial to the non-millionaires among us gains power in the White House and Congress simultaneously. It’s not not enough for them to have the wealth and power they already have come to possess, they seek to increase it at our expense, all the while placating us by telling us it’s only raining while they pee on us. How naive do they think we are?
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