Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has begun bypassing Congress to take his message of fiscal reform to a more-eager electorate: “Americans expect to be talked to like adults, not children,” he said at an AEI event this morning. “They know our system is broken.”
The congressman has received mostly awkward looks inside Congress for his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” an in-depth, legislation-ready proposal for pre-empting America’s compounding and forthcoming fiscal disasters from healthcare, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, debt, and taxes. Though, as even the president’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs admits, Republicans stand to gain substantially in this fall’s midterm elections, they have done so more by riding anti-spending, anti-Democratic sentiment rather than by proposing an alternate racehorse.
This, Ryan says, may make Republicans repeat their mistake of creating a “Republican machine” to imitate Democrats the last time around.
“We have to acknowledge we didn’t do it right when we had the majority last time,” he said, adding that politicians this election season have the “moral responsibility” to follow through on their promises for fiscal reform once elected.
Lawmakers have hardly missed the anti-incumbent clouds threatening the fall horizon, but conservative politicians have so far attempted to capitalize on voter anger by verbally aligning with Tea Partiers (see the stew over Rep. Michele Bachmann’s new congressional Tea Party Caucus) while making few concrete attempts to define a conservative platform. The Washington Post reports that many Republican strategists are currently counseling candidates to avoid discussing substance during their campaigns.
“The consultants argue that public anger, if properly stoked, alone can carry the party over the finish line. In their view, getting bogged down in the issues is a distraction and even a potential liability.”
Discussing the issues has hardly hurt Ryan. Tea Party and fiscal conservative enthusiasm for his ideas force him regularly to deny he plans to run for president in 2012, and has increasingly circulated his Roadmap on- and offline. Henry Olsen’s recent Foreign Affairs article further explains this fall’s election zeitgeist in its historic context, and explains what Republicans and conservatives should learn (italics mine):
The challenge for conservatives, then, is to propose alternatives that offer a real change of direction without seeming too radical. …The history of American populism suggests that the key to meeting this challenge is to offer clear, positive proposals that can be easily identified as efforts to help people help themselves. Failing to grasp this insight is what sank Bryan and Goldwater; understanding how to express it in word and deed is what made Reagan and his coalition.