As Donald Trump fizzles as a viable leader for Republicans, they may choose House Speaker Paul Ryan as the leader of the future. This would be a huge mistake, ensuring the party’s marginalization on the national stage for years to come.
I loathe one-party states, whether Democratic, Republican or Communist. In a functioning republic, peaceful political conflict (“war by other means”) usually results in compromises that create acceptable public policy. There’s no inherent reason why our state legislatures and Congress can’t be open to a wide marketplace of ideas.
If the post-Trump Republican Party rejects him like a bad organ, I worry that they won’t have much to contribute in the way of ideas to our changed national and global landscape. Turning the clock back to Ronald Reagan isn’t the answer. Yet Republicans seem destined to bedfellow with a very handsome Paul Ryan. If Republicans want a permanent Democratic majority, they’ll follow Ryan into the mist.
Presenting himself as the man with true “conservative principles,” Ryan is actually a radical, an ideologue and cunning rhetorician. Draping his recent budget proposals as good for the poor and “expanding opportunity,” he acknowledges people’s real economic insecurity while promoting policies brazenly against their interests.
“Robin Hood in reverse” is the way some critics have described the Ryan budget.
Trickle-down economics says that tax cuts for the wealthy stimulate growth, create jobs and lift children out of poverty. No credible economist can look at the years since 1980 (Reagan’s election) and utter these words with a straight face. It might be good dogma, but the facts about wealth concentration, stagnant wages, growing inequality and the percentage of children in poverty speak a very different truth.
Many voters know this. Trump’s domination of the Republican primary (and populism’s continuing appeal) have to be an alarm clock for advocates of warmed-over economic policies. Claiming a dedication to free markets, free trade and shrinking federal spending, Paul Ryan cloaks class interest in public interest. He’s a man who claims to be a conservative, yet advocates for policies that represent only the interests of the most wealthy. In reality, he’s a radical economic liberal.
When Ryan speaks of “economic freedom,” it’s for the 5 percent who are already winning, not those who are permanently out of the game, crushed by “externalities” of the market like low wages and increasing cost of living. Cutting taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals drastically lowers the ability of government to address market failures. In whose interest is that, besides the anti-civic billionaire?
Despite Ryan’s assertions, this isn’t a winning set of principles. The majority of American voters aren’t buying trickle-down BS any longer. Republicans and conservatives, for your own self-interest and the good of the country, please develop ideas that aren’t held hostage by free-market ideology. Allow your candidates to advocate for different economic theories — conservatism and free-market capitalism are wed only in the U.S. And please support a campaign financing system that doesn’t put Paul Ryan in a cage, wearing down the same path, having to advance the dogmatic, narrow interests of his most anti-tax and anti-civic donors.
Luke Garrott is a lecturer in political science at the University of Utah and a former city councilman and mayoral candidate in Salt Lake City.