Paul Ryan: When a Republican does not look like a demon to progressives

Ryan-Reagan-aWouldn’t it be nice if all of our political stereotypes were affirmed with every individual? You know, for progressives it would be easy if every Republican was gun-toting, uneducated, war-mongering, angry and generally uncouth. Without naming names, there are plenty of such types to go around. And before we go any further, progressives must keep in mind that others have their own stereotypes of us: tree-hugging, always politically correct, disrespecting authority, and even bed-wetting. Because I largely travel in the company of progressives, I know that the stereotype of liberals may be accurate about two per-cent of the time.

I would argue that Republicans fit more into some semblance of the stereotypical cage that many progressives give them. And when progressive run into a Republican who does not fit the stereotypical image that we have of them, it can become challenging. But do not totally fear, progressives are much better at tolerating ambiguity than conservatives.

Wisconsin congressman and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan certainly presents challenges for progressives. He is somewhat of the anti-Trump, which appeals to many, but in reality he is but one among many Republicans who fit that moniker. It’s more than that. He seems like the kind of guy who you would trust to take your kid with his family on an “American vacation.” He’s most likely polite to people who wait on him. In his personal life he probably has equal respect for men and women and does not bear ill-feelings towards those whose sexual orientation is different from his own. But dammit, those ideas of his can be unnerving.

As reported in The Economist:

A dogmatic conservative, Mr. Ryan has often used the budget process to score ideological points. He puts too much faith in supply-side reform as a growth-boosting counterweight to austerity. He launched a hapless effort to defund the health-care reform that is President Barack Obama’s main domestic achievement.

He is a devotee of the author Ayn Rand and has said,

“What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.”

He has supported generous tax cuts for the wealthy and railed against expenditures to maintain a social safety net, even for children and the elderly. How could a nice guy have such seemingly nasty positions on the issues?

We could learn a thing or two from Reagan biographer Peggy Noonan who told the story that if Reagan was taking a stroll outside the White House and a beggar came up and asked him for a dime, the President without hesitation would reach into his pocket and give him one. But if the same beggar was to be the beneficiary of an economic program that would help him, it’s likely that Reagan would have opposed that program and left the beggar starving.

It is indeed somewhat of a conundrum for progressives when we encounter a Ronald Reagan or a Paul Ryan. How they can personally be so nice while supporting public policies that are Republican-mean is difficult to understand.  This is why it is helpful to study the Republican Brain to gain more insight. In the meantime, it makes sense to be cordial with the likes of Reagan and Ryan, but also to beware.

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    I think back to my own political progression and wonder if Republicans just haven’t evolved beyond a certain point. They think small, local. Progressives want everyone to succeed, including people they have not personally met. Conservatives seem to want to vet every person they help, to determine their worthiness. Progressives accept that a few people scam the system because they know the overwhelming majority of gov’t benefit recipients are in great need and are helped. Conservatives become obsessed with the scammers, inflate their numbers, and use them as an excuse to cut funding for programs that benefit the poor.

    On a side note, I think Jesus would have a thing or two to say about the so-called “morality of capitalism”. Not just a logic fail there, but a total disconnect from consciousness. There is, after all, nothing morally justifiable about a system that exploits and oppresses and impoverishes billions of workers globally while enriching a handful of powerful elites.

    Thanks for the book recommendation!