Editor’s Note: Do not read this piece as an implicit endorsement of the Obama ticket, or the Democrats, but merely as an examination of one wing of the Uniparty, the more blatant wing in terms of servility and identification with corporate power.
STEVEN JONAS, TGP Senior Contributor
“Game Change II,” you say? You mean like what happened to McCain in 2008? Book? Movie? Well, likely not the last two (but hey, you never know). But really. Despite what Joe Scarborough says (over and over again), the Ryan choice just doesn’t seem to make sense for Romney. I know that he’s got to try to “shore up his conservative [read "reactionary"] credentials.” But this guy? Man, he’s got a target on his back bigger than the ones they shoot arrows at the Olympics and the Democrats are firing already (1). (And subsequent to the time this column was published, Paul “When Rape is Not Rape” Ryan picked up another one named Akin.)
For years now, the GOP has been running on what I have called the “Rightward Imperative” (2, 3). In brief, increasingly they have been running on the issues of religious prejudice (commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as the “social issues”): religious authoritarianism on abortion rights, homophobia, Islamophobia, and on racism, to cover up and distract attention from what their real agenda is, an agenda that reflects those interests the GOP really represents, politically and in policy.
As is well-known, the GOP represents major sectors of the US economy: the extractive industries, the military industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, corporate agriculture, the “health” insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and so on. But they could and can hardly run on a platform of “let the oil and coal companies do whatever they want to,” “we want the rich to get richer, donchaknow,” “we want to export as much American capital overseas where it can make larger profits than it can here, so we really want to de-industrialize our country,” “we don’t care about the health of the American people but we do care about the profits of the health care industry,” “we would like to have permanent war if we can get it,” “we want to convert the US economy from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism,” “we want our already low taxes [and yes, those folks do know how low their real taxes already are] to be even lower and really do want to get even wealthier because we deserve to be,” and so on an so forth. Couldn’t run on it openly, or very openly — that is, up to now. So since the time of Reagan they have been pushing the issues of religious prejudice more and more to the forefront of their campaigns. And Romney has been going along with this strategy, certainly on abortion rights, gay marriage, and so on.
Then there’s the Ryan pick. Well yes, he’s “good” on the religious prejudice issues, but he is primarily the poster boy for the true GOP economic/fiscal agenda, as summarized above. He doesn’t make any excuses for it. He goes out of his way to promote it, in legislation, with his personal stamp on it. Romney, from time-to-time, has made it clear that he knows that it’s in trouble in certain sectors of the electorate, like those on Social Security, and those who think that maybe, just maybe, rich people like him get away with lots of stuff on their taxes. And he picks Ryan!?! Something has happened here, I’m thinking. Thus I came up with this imaginary sequence of thought and conversation.
There’s Mitt, sitting by himself in his darkened study (well, who knows, but when one sees him in public one can only imagine that he most comfy when he’s alone). And he’s thinking to himself: “Golly. The Convention is approaching. I’ve got to pick someone for Veep. Let’s see. Can’t make the same mistake McCain did. It’s got to be someone the team has really vetted right. It’s got to be someone smart. It’s got to be someone who would know what newspapers he read. And it’s got to someone like me. So, who do I have?
“Christie? Well, he’s hardly like me and anyway they found out about that background stuff on him. So there’s no there there. Portman? Well, he was Bush’s Budget Director so those damn Dems. would bring Bush directly down around my head. Can’t have that label even though I’m going more or less with what Bush did anyway. Daniels? He’s got some kind of a wife problem. Left him. Came back. OY! (See, I did learn something in Israel.) Even though the team dug very deep, couldn’t really find out exactly what it is/was, but can’t have that kind of thing around. Ryan? Ohmygosh. Too young, too good-looking, and much-too-much dug in on the Right. With him and that abolish-Social-Security/Medicare nonsense we would be washing the elder vote right down the river. (I know I said something like it once. But backed off pretty quick. There’s an advantage with being able to switch positions so readily.) So that leaves Pawlenty. Good old Tim. Not much with the personality, but he is good-looking, has Exec. experience, and is a good conservative, like me. But he doesn’t put people on edge like, well, that Ryan fella. OK. I’ll tell the staff (instead of them telling me like they always do) that we’ll go with Pawlenty.”
Then the phone rings. A deep voice says: “Willard? We’ve decided on your vice-president.” “Huh?” Mitt says while thinking (gee, I know that voice from somewhere). “Yes, we’ve had enough of the religion stuff; you know what everyone calls the ‘social issues.’ They’re not going to win the election for you, because if you and the party continue down that lonesome road, you’re not going to get the money you need from us.” Mitt is thinking hard. “You want tons of our money, right?” “Whose money?” Mitt thinks. “Well, to get it, you’re going to pick that nice young man from Wisconsin. He’s been ours for some years now and this time around we are going to make sure that we have our voice right there in the White House, right next to you, where it belongs. Like we had our oil man, last time around. So that once you are there, and we are going to put you there, with our man Paul looking over your shoulder, the old Romney flip-flops are going to go right out the window. Otherwise, dear Willard, the money is going to dry up, and fast. Not that we can’t trust you, but we don’t.” And so Mitt “chooses” the “nice young man from Wisconsin.”
And so, there I am after the announcement, thinking “why Ryan?” Not someone Romney really wanted, knowing that he would be so hemmed-in on policy, not able to make his patented oh-so-convenient-depending-upon-the-audience changes. And then by the Monday after the Saturday announcement, I’m thinking, “Game Change, II.” Romney didn’t really want to have this guy, but, I’m thinking, the Koch Brothers, Inc. has gotten tired of playing second fiddle within the party to the Religious Right. (And oh yes, along with everything else, Ryan is a died-in-the-wool global warming denier.) Since the advent of their artificially grown Tea Party the economic far-right has been pushing for a larger and more open role in the party and in its campaigns. They think that it is time to drop the pretence. And so, I’m thinking, they dropped this bomb on Romney, as per the above script or something like it, just like the Palin bomb was dropped on McCain, who really had wanted to have his old buddy the turncoat Democrat Joe Lieberman on the ticket.
Of course, we’ll never know for sure (at least until after the election, and if Romney does win we will likely never know). But then on the Tuesday after the announcement, there’s an article in the New York Times entitled “Ryan Has Kept Close Ties to Donors on the Right” (4). Who are these “donors on the right?” Why a rogues’ gallery of the Economic Right, not the Religious Right: The Koch Brothers’ “Americans for Prosperity;” hedge-fund (otherwise known as the totally un-regulated inside trader funds) so-called “libertarians” (except of course for personal rights like the right to choose in the outcome of pregnancy) like the billionaires Cliff Asness and Paul Singer, the “Club for Growth” (of the wealth of the wealthy, of course), “Freedom Works” (for the Ritchie Riches of this world), the Economic Club of Chicago (murder capitol of the U.S.), and maybe even Sheldon Adelson, if he isn’t hauled into court on charges of bribery of foreign (Chinese) officials first.
For the last several weeks, many observers, including certain GOPers, have been writing off Romney’s chances and some say they are even worse with this choice. I say, not so fast. Koch Brothers Inc. now is going to absolutely flood the political marketplace with money. They’ve got the vote of the religious rightists, of the “get the colored guy out of the White House” bigots, and for sure the voters on the economic right (even if there are not too many of them). Add to this, voter suppression and vote count cheating. Yes, they could definitely win. And if they do, they will have a GOP House and Senate with them and Democratic Minority in the Senate that would never in a million years wield the filibuster the way the GOP has for the past four years. With Ryan in the White House, watch out. Oh, he’s only the Vice-President, you say? Just remember the last GOP Vice-President.
Now of course I could be wrong. Maybe Romney really does love the guy and is happy that he will not be able to keep changing his positions on major policy issues. But if there is a Game Change II, I would like to get some credit in a footnote somewhere and maybe even be able to get into the movie as an extra.
1. Center for American Progress, “12 Things You Must Know About Paul Ryan,” The Progress Report, Aug. 13, 2012.
2. Jonas, S., “BF Commentary No. 150: The Rightward Imperative of the GOP,”
Published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 08/06/2010, URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/200.
3. Jonas, S., “BF Commentary No. 191: The Imperative of the Republicans’ Rightward Imperative,” Published on BuzzFlash on Wed, 01/18/2012, URL: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13269
4. Confessore, N., “Ryan Has Kept Close Ties to Donors on the Right,” The New York Times, Aug. 14, 2102, p. A9.
Senior contributing editor Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books, including The 15% Solution, a volume of historical fiction outlining how the radical religious right could come to power. It is currently slated for republication, in a substantially revised edition, by Punto Press in the Spring of 2013. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), he is also the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.
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