Saturday, October 24, 2015

The liberal blogosphere misread Paul Ryan

I'm not sure why, but most of the liberal-leaning blogs I read incorrectly predicted what would happen with Paul Ryan. In a previous post, I referred to this Bernstein article where commenters were overwhelmingly wrong in understanding the situation.

Here is Ezra Klein, also not understanding the situation:
"Ryan should hope he doesn't get the job."
No, Ryan hoped that he would get the job. He hoped that he would bridge enough of the divides in the House GOP caucus. It was important (to him) that the various factions would look like they can unite and actually accomplish something. It presents a horrible picture when people within the same party can't decide on a leader. Why should such people be entrusted with any more power, like, say, the presidency?

This was the grim picture facing Republicans. Most Republicans knew it. They knew that their chances of winning the presidential election were dropping if the House GOP continued to joust and wound one another.

Of course some House Republicans are so blinded by their principles that they don't acknowledge that shutdowns and default threats hurt their standing. You can't make the willfully blind see, and no one can convince some of these hardliners to stop the tactics. (Well, unless their money dries up.) But enough of the hardliners saw that, and accepted Ryan. And of course, Ryan would want the GOP to have good chances for the 2016 election, so of course he wanted this infighting to end. So it wasn't that hard to predict it would happen.

Blind to the signs

... or maybe it's harder than I thought. The hardliners were strong enough to oust Boehner and nix McCarthy. Was it predictable that they would accept Ryan? The conservative press was pushing against Ryan with stories about him being for bailouts, and especially amnesty--that most heinous of sins in the hard-conservative world.

Maybe I could see the signs that, despite the barrage, Ryan was on track. Others couldn't see those signs. They were fixated on the idea that this hard rump of the caucus wanted to run things, or that no sane GOP rep would take the thankless task. They didn't see any hardliners as seeing or being wary of the major negative consequences of the GOP House not being able to choose a leader.

Also ignored were signs that hardliners were moving to Ryan. Jason Chaffetz dropped his candidacy and endorsed Ryan. The Freedom Caucus was split. While pressure was put on those to stay strong and keep the fight, the number declared against Ryan was conspicuously low, only 9 or 10 out of a purported 40 members on the day I checked, which was 10/21. I could read this as a likely victory for Paul Ryan, but most commenters (or pundits) couldn't. Why so blind? I don't know. Of course, I was tipped off by Harry Reid, so I had that advantage.


Extras. I didn't survey much of the huge liberal blogosphere to see who else was wrong, but I checked two favorites. In these three posts from Washington Monthly, no one mentions the threat to GOP presidential chances, ignoring this huge motivation to settle the issue. Jonathan Chait has a very good take on the situation. The GOP needs the presidency, and Ryan knows this. It's just a question of whether enough of the Freedom Caucus can see that Ryan is the best chance they have.

Of course, none of this is a guarantee that the wingnut factions of the GOP won't do something to ruin or greatly lessen the GOP's chances in 2016. I wouldn't ever rule that out.


Dangerous said...

I think your analysis is correct for both Ryan and the GOP caucus. Their war isn't over, but a continued fight over WHO is Speaker was counterproductive. Factor in the budget deal and I think we can see where the GOP leadership is trying to take the party: Generate enough peace within to maybe win the presidency in 2016 then give everyone in their caucus what they really want, which isn't so far apart.

The continuing war will be over who and how to run in 2016. Leadership thinks talk moderate then win and govern to crush the Dems. Rank-and-file see that strategy losing so their prescription is fight like hell now, stand on principle (win or lose) and then fight whatever results until they get their way or at least a more favorable political environment.

It remains to be seen whether the Dems can roll the second GOP strategy or blunt the first using a decent economy, or should I say one that the GOP would run on and tout if they were in charge. The Dems remain feeble on messaging from Obama on down, hoping people will just see that facts on the ground rather than buy the GOP spin against it.

ModeratePoli said...


We seem to be in agreement that the GOP is perhaps trying to suppress the crazy and act as a sane party in the run up to the 2016 election, but corralling the crazy may not work.

We disagree that the Dems' biggest problem is poor messaging. I think the Dems aren't centrist enough, not because centrism is inherently good, but because the centrist support for sound budgeting and avoiding additional spending is the best approach for our fiscal situation. What is the messaging that the Dems could be doing and aren't? That they want to add free tuition to the entitlement programs we already have?