There is a cult of Paul Ryan that is as strong as any cult of personality in American politics. It’s just the people who eschew populism and conservative politics are the ones in the cult. And these people would never consider themselves part of a cult as they kneel in their prayer closets and thank God for Paul Ryan.
Ryan is, to be sure, not a bad guy. But his cult of personality will make it problematic for conservatives should he be Speaker because everyone calls Paul Ryan a conservative and you are a loon if you think otherwise. In other words, House conservatives who might take issue with Ryan in the future will immediately be labeled as fascist totalitarians more willing to set everything on fire than work hard.
Personally, given Washington these days, I think the default should be to burn it to the ground (metaphorically speaking), but you know what I mean. Paul Ryan will give the veneer of conservatism to whatever he touches.
For example, Paul Ryan collaborated with Senate Democrat Patty Murray to raise taxes. Republicans then ran to every media outlet to declare it was not a tax increase. It is just a “user fee” because only productive citizens who have to travel for work and families on vacation will pay it.
Likewise, Paul Ryan has been the brains behind most of the fiscal deals John Boehner has cut with Barack Obama. Then there are his votes.
While in Congress, he voted for No Child Left Behind, the Prescription Drug Benefit, TARP, caps on CEO pay, the AIG bill, the GM bailout, the debt ceiling, and now the fiscal cliff. In fact, Paul Ryan is one of less than a dozen Republican congressmen to have voted for every bailout to come before Congress.
Paul Ryan is a creature of Washington. He worked on Capitol Hill, worked in a think tank, then went back as a congressman. He speaks Washingtonese with the best of them.
But the editoral page of the Wall Street Journal and the “smart pundits” of the right love Paul Ryan. He is dreamy. He is also actually a competent, good guy. He has just not really been the leader out front. He’s been the draftsman for bailouts behind the scenes.
In a world of modern media, Ryan would make an attractive Speaker with a young, fresh face and a comfortable demeanor in front of the camera. But he would make it very difficult for House conservatives because to oppose Ryan is, in the minds of much of the press, to oppose conservatism itself.
That’s not true. But that storyline is already baked in.
For conservatives to confront Ryan, they’d have to make it first about Scalise and McCarthy. They’d have to point their fingers at them, not Ryan. But they would still need to fight. Paul Ryan has voted for every bailout, TARP, No Child Left Behind, etc. He is a team player and conservatives in Washington cannot afford to be on Team DC-GOP when the American people are mad as hell at Washington.