The Ryan selection was a trigger. The ads and the attacks are already flowing, and the popular reactions are already being gauged. Polls are swinging this way and that, man-in-the-street interview clips are accumulating and being shown on various outlets, donation flows are being scrutinized, and (of course) analysts are straining to determine what it all means.
And here I am to tell them – and you.
In any worthwhile review of a political contest, if there’s an incumbent, our studies must start with him. In this case, that’s The Won himself, the Lightworker, the apostle of Hope’n’Change, the “sort of God” in the Oval Office: Barack Hussein Obama.
Obama is a visionary. The actual nature of that vision isn’t what will matter most in November; it’s what the electorate imagines it to be. However, I prefer facts to fantasies.
Obama has attempted, mainly by rhetoric, to present himself as a believer in the American Way: free markets, free enterprise, individual initiative, the rule of law, et cetera. However, the legislative developments he has endorsed, the executive orders he has issued, and the appointments he has made badly undercut that image...for anyone who’s disposed to believe deeds over words, at least. For us who have been watching, there can be little doubt that Obama’s vision is of Obama Uber Alles: federal policy as The Won prefers it and individual rights be damned, with “the good of society” as the rationale. Indeed, his recent speeches have explicitly veered into that channel, as if he had become impatient with the need to disguise his true creed.
Other commentators have opined that Obama hopes to impose upon the United States a version of the social-democracy practiced in Europe. I disagree. I think his aim is simple autocracy, in emulation of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, whom he admires greatly. There have been many indications in that direction, the most pointed one being Obama’s support of Manuel Zelaya’s failed attempt to suborn the constitution of Honduras.
Obama isn’t stupid enough to have his critics rounded up and imprisoned, as Chavez has done. I can hardly doubt that he’d like to, though – and that he’d enjoy taunting them in their cells. His vanity and arrogance show through whenever he’s publicly compelled to confront even the mildest criticism. Outright opposition literally enrages him. Note how several major donors to the Romney for President campaign have suffered unexpected attention from various alphabet agencies, most notably the IRS. It might be coincidence...but then, all the air in my office might migrate to one corner of the room, leaving me to asphyxiate.
What we have in the 44th president, then, is a Peronist: a ruler who’s his own biggest fan, who regards himself as unfettered by the chains of law, who rules via ukases from the palace balcony, who dispenses largesse to his backers and “welfare” to the masses according to his own preferences, and who disdains all attempts to constrain him, much less displace him. Obama himself would object; he wouldn’t want to be thought of as a reproduction of any other politician, even in rhetorical implication. His “base” might be aware of this, but it appears ready to accept it – and him – even so.
We have no need to analyze the “vision” of Mitt Romney. It would be a fool’s errand; he doesn’t have one. Romney is simply committed to becoming president, and he’ll say and do whatever he thinks will get him there. His personal convictions appear to be those of a network television producer: “Give the people what they want.” This is not proper republicanism, but it is typical of the sort of politician who’s dominated the GOP since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The visionary on the Republican side is Paul Ryan.
Mind you, regardless of the rhetoric he employs, Ryan’s vision is not about individual rights or the proper sphere of government – at least, not a Constitutional one. He’s a numbers maven. He approaches our federal government, monstrous in both its size and its failures, from an accountant’s perspective. What matters to him is making the books balance.
Ryan has conceived of a route back toward balance, in which federal outlays will no longer exceed federal tax revenues. It’s unsparing of anyone’s bleeding heart. Given contemporary needs-are-rights attitudes, it took a lot of political courage to produce and promote his “Path to Prosperity” budgetary proposal. Ryan deserves credit for that; few among our political elite would dare to suggest, as he has, that Medicare be converted into a federal subsidy for the purchase of private medical insurance. But it’s a far cry from the unsparing Constitutionalism we of the freedom movement would love to see.
All the same, Ryan does cleave to a principle, though it’s an accountant’s sort of principle: The books must balance. Government cannot forever live beyond its means. He feels he must approach his goal in a gradual fashion, rather than through a ruthless application of the Constitution’s constraints on federal activity. That’s a political posture -- and a political weakness, as it opens the door to “negotiation” with an enemy who has no interest in peace. Ask the Israelis how well that sort of posture has worked for them.
Still, half a principle is better than none.
In summary: if there’s a clash of visions before us, it’s not social-democracy versus Constitutionalism; it’s Obamunist autocracy versus Ryanist fiduciary responsibility. It’s a clear choice, to be sure...but even if the nation should choose the Romney-Ryan ticket in November, and populate both houses of Congress with legislators agreeable to their aims, there will be much more to do.
Restoring the Republic may begin with a concentration on budgetary details, but it must not end there. We will need further, more exacting visions, and visionaries ready to champion them against all opposition. Where we are to get such men, I cannot say.