“Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan!”
For a flash of a moment, I thought the good guys had achieved the unachievable, dragging the top echelons of the GOP squarely back into the intellectual camp of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally-limited government, ownership-based entitlement reform, fundamental tax reform, sound money, and individual opportunity.
It wasn’t quite that. It was the actual presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, making a slight gaffe in introducing his choice for a vice presidential running mate. Maybe it was an intentional, subliminal signal to tea partiers and constitutional conservatives? After all, many of us would have preferred Ryan at the top of the ticket.
That said, Romney made a good choice — a great choice in fact. It was a real indication to grassroots America that the Romney camp is willing to finally engage on the big issues that matter most in this election. It’s not quite enough to say that Obama has failed, we know that. Incumbent presidents should not win reelection with persistent unemployment over 8 percent and a staggering $16 trillion in debt. Clearly Obama needs to be fired. But what are you, the Republicans, actually for?
Paul Ryan understands that progressivism is a fundamental threat to the American system based on bottom-up individual freedom and opportunity. He understands that economic growth comes from start-up entrepreneurs who struggle for success — who did, in fact, "build that."
He understands the threat of the entitlement state, how it will bankrupt the country and lock future generations into a system that taxes more and more, but returns less and less. He understands economic opportunity and the need for a tax system that is low, flat, fair and honest.
He even understands sound money, and how the Federal Reserve is destroying our currency, and the economic consequences of its destruction.
Paul Ryan is one of us. Full disclosure: I have known him and worked with him since I was a fellow budget staffer on Capitol Hill in 1993. I like him; I think he is a good person. Since those early days, I have known Paul to share many of the principles I hold dear.
He’s not perfect, for sure, and he has made more than a few votes that we at FreedomWorks have vocally opposed. But in the exclusive world of presidential politics, the ascendency of someone like Paul Ryan clearly represents one of the great measures of our success as a grassroots movement to restore liberty and responsible governance in America.
For all of these reasons, and the vast documentation of his beliefs, from speeches to the Ryan budget plan, expect him to be demonized for his ideas.
For progressives, Paul Ryan is their worst nightmare: A policy wonk who understands what they are all about, who has solutions, and who has an easy style and ability to communicate. For that very reason, they will try to destroy him. Think about the attacks on Sarah Palin — on steroids.
If you and I don’t show up and defend Paul Ryan, expect our best ideas to lose in the political marketplace.
The choice of Ryan is an acknowledgement by Romney that something needed to change in the campaign, and a clear attempt to add some policy heft to the GOP ticket. It will force both candidates — Romney and Obama — to have a more serious debate about the right path to economic recovery.
Ryan represents a set of new ideas to grow the economy, reform the tax code and balance the budget, and the choice will force a more adult debate between these ideas and the radical expansion of government and debt under Obama.
If nothing else, you and I need to show up and defend our values. If not us, who? Welcome to presidential politics.
Matt Kibbe is president and CEO of the grass-roots FreedomWorks organization [FreedomWorks.org] that has been instrumental in rallying the conservative cause. His latest book is Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America.
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