The obvious news item of the week has been Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s publicized choice of running mate – Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – and its subsequent effect on the former’s chances for winning the Oval Office this November.
Over the past few weeks, Romney’s polling numbers have been down. Similar in fashion to McCain’s “Palin bump” in 2008, Romney/Ryan is seemingly all the rage for voters eager to push back against progress and oust President Obama as he seeks a second term in office. And since the announcement this past weekend, Right wing politicos have been cheerfully lauding Romney’s selection – insisting that somehow NOW the race “just got serious”.
But, has it? Have we stepped into “real issue” mode with the selection of Ryan, or have things once again taken yet another turn for the ridiculous?
Sure, Ryan wants to raise taxes on the middle class to give the rich more breaks. Of course he wants to cripple the nation’s elderly by privatizing Social Security and replace Medicare with a voucher system.
In true Republican fashion, higher education grants take a backseat to oil subsidies in Ryan’s playbook – subsidies from which he would directly profit. He shares Romney’s sentiment that affordable health care should not be extended to millions of Americans and feels that insurance companies are well within their rights to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
And to assuage the Religious Right, Ryan is in full agreement that a fertilized egg deserves more rights and protections under the government than an actual impoverished, hungry child.
This is all standard stuff; par for the course for any of the usual suspects of whom pundits speculated would be selected as Mitt Romney’s eventual running mate.
But until now, Romney has been running on the premise that it is imperative for someone seeking the highest office in the land to possess substantial – if not exclusive – private sector success (if you classify layoffs, corporate buyouts and job outsourcing-for-profit as “success”). In fact, his anti-government rhetoric has been largely what has been keeping him in the race at all, as his questionable religious background and elitist, anti-working-class persona are mere highlights of the stark contrasts between what he represents and what Right wing conservative voters (should) value.
Although the GOP is collectively nervous about the addition of Ryan to the Republican ticket, Romney is attempting to woo the sycophantic outpourings of the Tea Party singularity – complete with dumbed-down economic contexts, cultural superiority and religious underpinnings – while presenting a person who has done little more than be a professional politician throughout his adult life while having vocally advocated for such divisive memes as the overhaul of Medicare, big-spending conservatism, and one nation under a Christian God.
A staunch opponent of women’s rights, marriage equality and legal protections from hate crimes, Ryan refines and reinforces Romney’s pledge to force a regression of pre-civil rights mentalities on the nation. He supported a 2006 ban on gay marriage in Wisconsin and – similarly to Romney – continues to support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on a federal level (so much for “big government” staying out of our lives).
He agrees with Romney’s “assault on religion” claim against Obama’s decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and opposes the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). He also believes that – as they are seemingly less than human – non-discrimination protections do not apply to gay people.
And as I mentioned above, Ryan’s stance on abortion is abysmal; according to Ryan, ALL abortions should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest or those in which the lives of the would-be mother are threatened.
“Mitt Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee is an inspired, outstanding selection,” said Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Paul Ryan is a rare and exceptional public servant who combines the courage of his convictions with a sharp intellect and a winsome personality.”
“He is a person of devout Christian faith who has a 100 percent pro-life and pro-family voting record in his 14 years in Congress,” he added. “He will excite and energize social conservatives, who will play a critical role in the outcome of the elections.”
And as if molded by a crucifix-shaped cookie cutter, he falls directly in line with the Right’s abhorrence toward Obama’s contraception mandate that subsequently protects the right and lives of women and girls across the country by labeling it as a threat to “our first amendment rights to religious freedom and conscience.” Similarly, he has has voted at least four times to defund Planned Parenthood – a move that would be greatly detrimental to women and girls in need of screenings for cancer and other sexually transmitted diseases (see the whole egg vs. person thing above).
“Paul Ryan has spoken out strongly against President Obama’s abortion drug and contraception mandates as an affront to religious liberty,” commented Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “He has articulately described how the President’s government takeover of health care has pushed aside our First Amendment right of religious freedom.”
So, where does that leave voters? Has anyone with a conscience been offered a viable, sensible and plausible alternative to an Obama second term, or has the Republican party – further co-opted by the Religious Right – once again falsely doubled down on generic, socially-conservative talking points in the form of a fresh, young, color-less addition to the Romney campaign?