The charm of Sarah Palin as a veep pick is, she set the bar incredibly low for her successors. As long as a nominee can name a newspaper and their foreign policy experience isn’t living next to a foreign country, the press can dub them better than Sarah Palin. More qualified. More gravitas. More ready to lead than Palin was…
A Palin standard for being fit for public office is like a Donald Trump standard for public humility. Basically no standard at all.
It’s really not fair to compare Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin. Sure it makes Ryan as a VP nominee seem less cynical––less Hail Mary––less desperate than if Palin had never word-souped the nation four years ago. If John McCain would have picked Tim Pawlenty in ’08, the Ryan pick would look pretty irresponsible. But now the GOP has the Palin Standard.
A better comparison for Paul Ryan is former Republican presidential candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Both are from mid-western cheese-heavy states. Both are high-profile tea party Republicans in the lowest-rated Congress in the history of percentages. Even when Bachmann is causing international incidents with her xenophobic race baiting about the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged infiltration of the U.S. government––she sounds as pleasant as someone selling orange juice on television. If the 1980’s Michael J. Fox sit-com character––the beloved Reagan-idolizing Alex P. Keaton––were a self-hating public employee who cherry-picked all the worst parts of Ayn Rand, the Bible and the Heritage Foundation’s reading room, he’d be Paul Ryan! Quirky, young and clearly trying to fill a larger man’s suit––the rightest of Republicans love Paul Ryan.
Well they kind of love him. Both Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann are guilty pleasures for Republicans. They like listening to them beat up on President Obama and spout their cheery condemnations of liberalism but they don’t want to admit it too loudly lest they get stuck defending ALL their ideas. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll but now she’s not even invited to introduce anyone let alone speak at the upcoming Republican National Convention.
Obama was trying to campaign against the Ryan Budget plan this spring since the House GOP voted for it. That was declared out-of-bounds. Now? It’s in play and Republican politicians are not thrilled about explaining their vote to give future senior citizens coupons for chemotherapy.
But also Bachmann and Ryan share the distinction of being ineffective lawmakers–in the way of actually making laws. According to ThatsMyCongress.com, in her nearly six years in office “Bachmann has passed three rhetorical bills with no force of law, and one amendment that asks an Inspector General to conduct inspections.” Paul Ryan has been an incumbent for twice that time and has only introduced two bills that have become law: One renaming a post office in his home town, the other changing how arrows are taxed (how very 21st century).
Bachmann at least gets to distance herself from the Republican Congressional blank check given to the big-spending Bush administration. Under Ryan’s allegedly hawkish eye his party started two unpaid-for wars, cut taxes during said wars, grew the government, exploded the national debt and then bailed out unregulated banks with taxpayer money. Paul Ryan voted yes for all of it and doesn’t ask for a correction when he’s called a small government conservative.
Both Bachmann and Ryan are also at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to gay rights and reproductive freedoms. They both have consistently voted for any anti-abortion/anti-contraception bills that came before them. Ditto with expanding marital rights to same sex couples. Ryan, with all his libertarian billing, has voted to take away liberties from his fellow citizens. He is the government he’s warned us about: Freedom is for corporations, and regulations are for our private lives.
If Ryan is now the Republican mainstream, Bachmann is now the Republican mainstream. If Ryan is getting the full embrace of his party––Bachmann should be getting that same welcome into the fray.
Or in the case of Republicans in 2012: fringe.