This piece originally appeared at Digby's blog
There's a lot of chatter this morning about this article in the WaPo about Paul Ryan and how much heartburn his economic plans are causing the Republicans. I was immediately reminded of a famous article about Newt Gingrich back in 1988 which featured this observation:
His recognition and his gathering power were not the result of the legislation he drafted or helped to pass, which, in fact, was negligible. And he was scorned by detractors for some of his wackier notions --which ranged from the off-the-wall (plans for statehood in outer space) to potential political dynamite (he once proposed abolishing Social Security and replacing it with mandatory I.R.A.'s).
The latter "wacky notion" was, of course, eventually adopted by the entire GOP establishment as "privatization," which the last administration made a very serious attempt to implement. Paul Ryan still pushes it, even in the face of the recent Wall Street meltdown and as a member of President Obama's deficit commission, will undoubtedly be proposing "reforms" which may include some elements of that plan once again. What was once a wacky notion is now a zombie article of faith on the right, just waiting for the opportune moment to rise again.
In other words, wacky GOP ideas have a way of becoming mainstream in a fairly short period of time, particularly when they are pushed by the so-called "intellectuals" of the conservative movement who are embraced by the establishment as Very Serious People. Why these people are taken so seriously by anyone other than the Grizzly Mama is anyone's guess, but the phenomenon is fairly dangerous.
The bigger question is why the Democratic Party is so completely useless in dealing with this kind of nonsense.
As Howie points out in his post today:
Krugman tears apart the carefully crafted conventional wisdom that Ryan is "the most intellectually ambitious Republican in Congress." Obama appointed Ryan to his Deficit Commission -- another vote to dismantle Social Security in the name of making sure the wealthy permanent ruling elite never have to pay their fair share of taxes. (Bush couldn't get it done, so they've tasked Obama with the dirty job.) Unlike Obama, though, Krugman-- who knows more about how economics actually works than both of them squared, comes right out and says, "the truth is that he’s stone-cold ignorant" (Ryan, not the other one). Ignorant... Randian... what's the difference? He's clearly unfit for elective office. And yet... and yet... the DCCC seems stubbornly determined to never, never, never-- don't you dare-- take him on. This year he'll be the most glaring example of a high-profile Republican incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district won by Obama with no plausible opponent, the DCCC having chased Paulette Garin out of the race and replaced her with... well, another Alvin Greene.
Read on to see the whole bizarre story of the Democratic Party refusing to take on Paul Ryan despite the fact that he's in a Democratic district that went for Obama in 2008. What in the world is going on? I literally can't think of a good reason for the party to protect a crude Randian ideologue unless he is a designated untouchable by very powerful people who donate to both sides of the aisle.
Consider this amazing little factoid:
A little update: the infamous Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector has now shoveled $1,908,465 in thinly veiled bribes directly into Ryan's campaign coffers-- yes, the same Ryan who's never faced a serious electoral challenge. This is more money than they've given any Wisconsin political figure in history-- including senators and powerful House members who were already in Congress when Ryan was still skipping rope in his elementary school playground and hadn't even read Atlas Shrugged yet!
They aren't giving this guy money for no reason. He furiously whipped the House for TARP when the first vote failed and is a consistent advocate for everything the wealthy could want. That he may believe his own Randian nonsense is a happy coincidence. That the Village takes him seriously as an intellectual is frosting on the cake with a cherry on top.