Paul Ryan, Extremist

The big speech at the Republican Convention tonight will come from Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Congressman who is Mitt Romney’s running mate.  For many people — including Kish and me — it will be the first time we get to see Ryan make a speech.

The speech will be important, because President Obama’s supporters are doing what they can to convince us that Ryan is a dangerous extremist, a fringe politician who wants to scalp the poor and enrich the wealthy, push granny off the cliff, eviscerate the social safety net, and  hurl the nation back into the dark ages.  Of course, that’s what modern politics is like — we can’t just respectfully disagree with someone, we have to try to depict them as the devil incarnate.

I’m skeptical about Ryan’s supposed extremism.  He’s fiscally conservative, sure, but no nut job Republican is going to elected repeatedly from a blue-collar district that favored President Obama over John McCain in 2008 — and that is exactly what Ryan has done, and in 2010 he got 68 percent of the vote.  I think we can trust the voters in Wisconsin congressional district number 1 to not repeatedly reelect a bomb-throwing nutcase.

Still, many Americans will form their first impression of Ryan tonight, which means he’ll never have a better opportunity to try to shrug off the extremist label.  As we all know, first impressions often can be lasting ones.

5 thoughts on “Paul Ryan, Extremist

  1. I don’t think your reasoning is sound. Just because Paul Ryan’s district went for Obama in 2008 and reelected Ryan the same year doesn’t mean Paul Ryan doesn’t have extremist views. 2008 was a special year when Americans were aching for new leadership after 8 years of a Republican president left the country in a worsening recession and two long wars.

    According to the district’s wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin%27s_1st_congressional_district) it is 90% white, 57.7% white collar. The median income is $50,000, above the national average. So, not the kinds of people who would be horribly hurt by cuts to social programs.

    Not to mention the fact that Ryan obviously has a lot of personal magnetism, works very hard at his job and has had an successful career in the House (I’m not going to refuse him his good qualities).

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  2. I don’t think your reasoning is sound. Just because Paul Ryan’s district went for Obama in 2008 and reelected Ryan the same year doesn’t mean Paul Ryan doesn’t have extremist views. 2008 was a special year when Americans were aching for new leadership after 8 years of a Republican president left the country in a worsening recession and two wars.

    According to the district’s wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin%27s_1st_congressional_district) it is 90% white, 57.7% white collar. The median income is $50,000, above the national average. So, not the kinds of people who would be horribly hurt by cuts to social programs.

    Not to mention the fact that Ryan obviously has a lot of personal magnetism, works very hard at his job and has had an successful career in the House (I’m not going to refuse him his good qualities).

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    • I take your point, which I think is a fair one, but I also think the 2008 election does tell us something useful about whether Ryan is an extremist or not. In a year of strong voter discontent, President Obama carried Ryan’s district, yet Ryan was reelected with almost 64 percent of the vote, according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections_in_Wisconsin,_2008#District_1. Clearly, a lot of people who voted for Obama also voted for Ryan, which means he has some appeal to classic swing voters. Swing voters typically don’t vote for people who are nutty extremists — which is the picture many Democrats are trying to paint of Ryan.

      I’m not saying Ryan represents the most liberal congressional district in America; obviously he doesn’t. But I do think his election record does suggest that the voters who know him best, including swing voters, don’t think he is a dangerous extremist.

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  3. I suppose what is extremism is, to some extent, in the eye of the beholder.

    For the most part, I agree with Bob on this one. Although liberals have characterized Ryan as extremist because of his budget proposals, I believe he voted for TARP, the President’s stimulus bill, and the auto industry bailout. I sure don’t consider him to be extreme in the manner of (say) Ron Paul.

    With respect to Bob’s comments suggesting that the voting results in Ryan’s congressional district show he doesn’t hold extreme views, I’m not sure that fully proves his point. However, I think you’ll find that the demographics Richard cited for Ryan’s district fairly closely mirror the state as whole. And, the state of Wisconsin has not voted for a republican presidential nominee since 1984, when Regan won in the biggest landslide I recall, winning every state except Minnesota (and the District of Columbia).

    I’m sure we will hear plenty of arguments asserting that Ryan is extremist during the democratic convention next week. I’ll pay attention.

    I enjoyed all of the posts above.

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