Shorter Paul Ryan: It’s never about race
“It was a long talk and he asked about the culture and I just went off of that,” Ryan told Burke. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever.”
This was in reference to Ryan’s latest failed attempt to cast himself as a serious policy maker via repurposing old Atwater tag lines into tweetable red-meat for conservatives. And while Ryan is understandably upset that Barbra Lee called him on his racism, he and his defenders have to acknowledge that he might have finally flown too close to the sun on this one.
The entire mythology behind Paul Ryan, and the reason he rose to prominence via pundits like Ezra Klein and David Brooks, was the idea that he existed on the same technocratic neo-liberal plain as our President. He was “a numbers guy” who supposedly had actual concerns with creating policy that would erase inequities and “unleash opportunity” or some such meaningless bullshit.
The legitimacy of Ryan’s economic model was the first part of his image to be destroyed. Once real economists like Paul Krugman/Dean Baker/et all took a look at the ideas that Ryan was proposing after 2009, it was entirely clear that Ryan was simply the latest well-coifed snake oil salesman of Jack Kemp’s old & terrible ideas to bring back the 1870’s. Thanks to academics asking Ryan to explain his magic asterisks and un-cited assertions, his image as a right-wing econ Superman entirely disintegrated. The reaction to his hilariously bad poverty white paper was best summed up in this quote:
“[T]oo often Ryan’s report reads like a class project cut-and-pasted together by a group of Google-happy sophomores in a 200-level class at Bob Jones University”
But even as the “serious” label more or less disappeared for Ryan in reference to his academic defense of modern feudalism, most mainstream political reporting still gave him the benefit of the doubt concerning his public persona as a new-age conservative. Ryan, we were told, was not a Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond style Republican who simply hated poors and blacks because they were poor and black. Rather, like our President, Paul Ryan supposedly ascribed to an ideology that upheld the essential equality of human beings, and believed that circumstances and individual moral failures could explain any discrepancies in opportunity or success existed in society. Those driving the D.C. political consensus were very comfortable with conceptualizing Ryan as someone who genuinely believed that anyone could do well in life if they sought out and properly used available resources; especially if those resources were “responsibly” maintained by the government.
The reality of course, like everything else about Paul Ryan, is that his self-created image as a social policy wonk from the classical liberal persuasion was nothing but a complete fraud. If his voting record and financial backers didn’t already demonstrate this inconvenient truth, quotes like this might finally establish Ryan’s place in the pantheon of racist demagogues who somehow slithered into places of political power in this country. Then again the very fact that pathological liar like Paul Ryan is a household name- while a legitimately decent representative like Barbra Lee remains in relative obscurity (despite being in congress for a year longer than Ryan), should serve as a good example as to why a white Congressman in 2014 would feel comfortable paraphrasing George Wallace in public.