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Why Paul Ryan was picked seems pretty clear to me. Romney was losing and he was being hammered by the right wing of his own party, without which support he couldn't even win the Republican base, let alone the middle of the electorate. Romney's Freudian slip that Ryan "is the next President of the United States" helps confirm, to my mind, that as a party, and given that Romney was losing, the future of the party itself was a major ingredient in the pressure Romney was receiving and his final V.P decision.
One of the baseline failures of Romney's campaign was the inability to keep the election from being a choice. With a lack luster economy and tons of cash, Romney played dumb for three months---why worry, it's not about me. Obama had been so easily demonized for three years that, IMO, Romney thought---in a replay of killing his primary opponents with negative ads---it would be a cake walk to hang the economy around Obama's neck while he himself dealt in generalities.
Romney was trying to placate the right wing without writing off independents and the result was Romney mush. In the context of a great ad campaign by Obama, Romney himself became the target. His plan of putting the focus on Obama and skating into the Presidency failed miserably as a strategy while concurrently, his unfavorable ratings increased. In fact, people were getting to know Romney and they didn't like what they saw.
I am delighted by the choice of Ryan because, built on the foundation of a "choice" election, we now have a stark definition of the difference between two visions. There has been some discussion in these pages about what constitutes valid attacks on Romney. I myself have partaken in many attacks upon Romney which might be considered peripheral issues. I don't think Romney's tax returns, for example, are a peripheral issue, but I can understand the disdain of others who want to get into the red meat of what separates Progressives from the right wing cabal who fundamentally want to take this nation back to a pre-Roosevelt era.
As a nation we began, in my humble opinion, to double down on our selfish instincts somewhere about three decades ago. One can debate when and why, but the spearheads, I think, were in the corporate finance, the executive suites and the finance industry itself. I worked in the Executive Recruiting industry in the early Seventies when the adoration of finance and outrageous executive salaries had not yet taken root. But the glorification of those at the top and the rationale for why that was o.k. followed. My opinion about why such outrageous behavior worked has a lot to do with ourselves, we bought into a generational narrative that things were different now, everyone could take out enough credit to get rich. At least, I bought into it and I escaped with my skin. Thank God, I sold those properties in Florida when I did, or I wouldn't be able to afford this laptop.
Is wishful thinking the same as selfishness, probably not. But I think it relates. My theory, crudely expressed in a strange blog post on how Jamie Dimon was a knock off of a famous movie star, was essentially that we, or I, facilitated the rise of a selfish and untouchable bloating of the finance industry and the selfishness which went along with it by buying into the themes---it's different now, and Jamie Dimon is a hero. Sometimes I wish I could be more logical.
I don't know if Paul Ryan is a selfish person. But his famous budget is in no way a departure from the last thirty years. In fact, the Ryan budget essentially endorses and strengthens the worst possible aspects of the last thirty years, the age of selfishness.
I think we have needed for some time as a nation to have a real discussion about what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to strip social services, educational assistance, healthcare, and research because we fundamentally disagree with the role of government? Do we want to pay the absolute lowest tax rate possible, regardless of the consequences. What will be the result of continued aggregation of the country's wealth by the few at the top---and, moreover, those at the top ought to think of what kind of infrastructure they want. Let's be serious, what is the logical ending of starving the middle class and continuing to favor those at the top. In effect, where the hell does it stop?
I think the stage is set for a choice election in very concrete terms. It would be a mistake to think that Ryan is not a dangerous adversary. A man who appears to have a principle while his opponent is simply using tactics is a potential winner in a climate of economic uncertainty. Obama and his team particularly need to stop the cuteness, it's time to bring our policy debaters to the fore.