Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, March 14, 2014

Paul Ryan's Outreach

So, the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver is at it again.

Recently - I think at CPAC - Paul Ryan made comments about poverty being linked to urban culture.  Urban, for those of you not paying attention to post WW II America, means "black".  To be fair, it might also mean "brown".  What it does not mean is "white".

People responded poorly to this, and Ryan said he was misunderstood and articulated his points poorly.

But as Josh Marshall points out, the problem is that Ryan was basing his remarks on the work Charles Murray.  Murray has argued in the past that blacks lag behind whites because they are genetically inferior.  He made this point in The Bell Curve, which came out in 1994.  In case you were wondering, arguing that one group is racially inferior based on genetics is kind of the definition of racism.

Ryan's problems are indicative of the broader issues in conservatism, and they are linked to more than just Charles Murray.  Ryan is also a devotee of Ayn Rand.  And Objectivism is just as odious and corrosive as the ideas of Charles Murray.

If there is a common theme to Rand and Murray's work it is the idea of "I've got mine, screw you," which is at the heart of modern conservatism.  This is the philosophy - obviously - of the 1%, but also of the older, white middle class voters that make of the GOP base.  It is a philosophy that justifies doing nothing to help others who might need them.  It justifies everything from banning paramedics from carrying Narcon to cutting school lunches to refusing the need for a public works project to climate change denialism.

And Ryan is a wonderful avatar of this movement, because he himself benefited from the "welfare state" when he used Social Security survivor benefits to go to college.  In short, he got his, so screw the rest of you.

But I do sense that Ryan does have some understanding of his hypocrisy.  I sense that he "gets" that the GOP can't just go around saying "I got mine, screw you."  That's why he stages ridiculous photo ops in soup kitchens and packages his latest round of cuts in spending as "helping the poor."  Ryan is a Catholic and has a dim understanding that as a Christian, you can't write off your neighbor. (This makes his embrace of Randian Objectivism all the more paradoxical, since Rand explicitly chastised Christianity for embracing compassion for the poor.)

So Ryan the Politician understands the toxicity of going around saying, "Screw you, I got mine" but Ryan the Policy Maker is philosophically wedded to a bunch of ideas (Rand's, Murray's) that lead in no other direction.

The GOP remains a formidable "vote getter" because their base votes.  Rain or shine, they show up.  But they also remain incapable of governance.  Witness the body Paul Ryan helps lead; the GOP House is least productive legislative body in modern history.

Both their appeal to the electorate and their incompetence in governing are linked to the basic philosophy of "Screw you, I got mine."  This is why the angry old coots don't want the government messing around in their Medicare and Social Security.

The problem is that 8 years of Obama (and 8 years of Bush for that matter) have created responses that have painted them into a corner.  Bush's incompetence and Obama's mere presence have made them embrace ever more radical ideas and policies.  They have wrapped themselves ever more tightly around "Screw you" all the while losing more and more of the country's electoral future.

So Poor Paul Ryan, who no doubt sees himself as a compassionate, Christian man, is left impaled between the horns of Rand and Murray on one side and Jesus Christ and Pope Francis on the other.

No wonder he's inarticulate.

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