Taking Down Paul Ryan: We Need a Better Strategy
Democrats and liberals need to discredit the Paul Ryan, and some are trying, but, as usual, they're not doing it the way it needs to be done. Most of the responses are wonkish -- the Ryan budget will prevent millions who'd get coverage via the (still little-loved) health care law from getting coverage! The Ryan budget will increase the deficit and then make Medicare recipients pay more eleven years from now! The Ryan Medicare plan will be subject to political pressure eleven years from now that will raise its cost (or reduce benefits)!
All of this is true. All of this is important. None of it, however, is easy for the average American to grasp. None of it is visceral and immediate. I said it before and I'll say it again: The Republican plan abolishes Medicare. There's your message, Democrats and liberals. Somebody needs to say that. Oh, and: Paul Ryan says Medicare and Social Security are "a cancer."
Meanwhile, Republicans know what they're doing. They're selling this by making Paul Ryan a hero -- after all their fumbling around and with an utterly pathetic presidential field, they've nevertheless found their Barack Obama.
I know, I know -- Obama was multiculti and oratorically gifted and sounded kind of progressive. Well, yeah -- but the reason he found favor with the folks in the mainstream media is that he was just their type: youthful, optimistic, an apparent big thinker, a perfect cocktail of wonkish/jockish (but not too much of either), and seemingly not conservative but also not (ick) dogmatically liberal.
The press fell for this combination in '92, in the person of Bill Clinton. He had big ideas and the common touch. Just like many yuppie reporters, he jogged. He was DLC. He was the new JFK (and then Obama was the newer JFK).
When there's no one like this, the press turns to less satisfactory substitutes -- wishing George W. Bush were smarter, wishing Newt Gingrich didn't seem like a middle-school bullying victim turned Nietszchean. But in Ryan they've got what they want. He's young and vigorous and has big wonky ideas and makes himself sound reasonable selling them. He works out a lot. He sells his budget as a "path to prosperity" and a way of saving entitlement programs -- optimism! Lack of mean-spiritedness! (I guarantee you you're going to read mainstream press articles about how we need to do something like what Ryan's proposing so we can avoid the extremism of the tea party.)
The Republicans know they can sell Ryan as a heroic dreamboat. They know the press will buy it. And what's our side countering with? Wonkery -- nothing more.
Republicans know you have to tarnish a press dreamboat. They sure did it to Clinton and Obama (Both, especially Obama, also did it to themselves. But Republicans positioned themselves to exploit every weakness, while highlighting every flaw and making up ones that didn't actually exist.)
Want to blunt the power of Ryan's message? Discredit the messenger. Sorry -- this is America. That's how these things work. The alternative is Ryan as rock star.