One of the reasons conservatives are so incompetent at governance is that they are so rigidly ideological that they're congenitally incapable of responding to changing facts and realities on the ground -- as we witnessed in the leadup to the Bush Economic Meltdown of 2008. They prefer clinging to their disproved and debunked oligarchical fantasies (they still adhere largely to "trickle down" economics, after all) than deal with the set of cards that the real world hands them. That's why we're still stuck with the Bush Tax Cuts, too.
So of course, in the wake of last night's win by Democrat Kathy Hochul in New York's 26th District -- a resounding repudiation of Paul Ryan's Medicare plans, as well as Republican overreaching generally -- the conservative punditry was out circling the wagons around their latest Randian hero. Ryan was on Joe Scarborough's show this morning where everyone was wringing their hands over those nasty Democrats and their demagoguery, better known in the real world as Democrats' mastery of the political facts of Medicare. It was the same story on Fox & Friends too.
Now, if these people were competent in the least, they'd realize that their ideological rigidity had taken them out onto political thin ice and it was cracking away underneath them. Newt Gingrich showed a flash of this when he tried to distance himself from the Ryan plan -- and then, of course, came quickly to whimpering heel. So onward they plunge. Indeed, Newt is now sturdily defending Ryan even in the wake of the NY-26 disaster.
Earlier this week, Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg were on Bret Baier's "All Star Panel" extolling Ryan's many virtues and pleading with him to get in the race for the Republican nomination for president. Both of them thought Ryan should be drafted if he didn't run on his own. (Jonah has penned a column to this effect, too.)
And even after this disaster, their tune will not change one iota. Because they cannot budge from the ideological corner into which they've painted themselves. Ryan's Path to the Poorhouse is not just an economic and social disaster in the making for Americans, it's one that ordinary, common-sense voters can see coming a mile away. Democrats don't have to "demagogue" to make a clear case that it would be disastrous.
The political dangers in the Ryan budget could have been predicted in advance. In fact, they were predicted in advance – and widely. Yet the GOP proceeded anyway, all but four members of the House putting themselves on record in favor. Any acknowledgment of these dangers was instantly proclaimed taboo, as Newt Gingrich has painfully learned. Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer have enthusiastically promoted Paul Ryan as a presidential candidate. And this morning, as the reckoning arrives, the denial continues. Here’s Jonah Goldberg in a column arguing that “perhaps the only guy who can explain the GOP budget should run.”
In reality, Ryan is very unlikely to accept this draft. He declined the opportunity to run for US Senate in Wisconsin, likely because he sensed he could not win a state-wide election in which his budget would be the main issue.
Now we’re likely headed to the worst of all possible worlds. The GOP will run on a platform crafted to be maximally obnoxious to downscale voters. Some may hope that Tim Pawlenty’s biography may cushion the pain. Perhaps that’s right, at least as compared to Mitt Romney, who in the 2008 primaries did worst among Republicans earning less than $100,000 a year. And yes, Pawlenty is keeping his distance from the Ryan plan. But biography only takes you so far. The big issues of 2012 will be jobs and incomes in a nation still unrecovered from the catastrophe of 2008-2009. What does the GOP have to say to hard-pressed voters? Thus far the answer is: we offer Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, and tighter money aimed at raising the external value of the dollar.
No candidate, not even if he or she is born in a log cabin, would be able to sell that message to America’s working class.