Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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We Built This City

“It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.” –Paul Ryan

“Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'” -Jeremiah 10:11

Day Three of the Republican National Convention is over but my goosebumps tingle on. Paul Ryan’s speech was one of the most amazing I have ever heard, and I was paying attention in 2008. From channeling President Reagan on moral clarity and spiritual conviction to reminding Young America that he gets where we’re coming from, I witnessed a meteor rising in the aspiring Republican veep. My ears are still ringing.

Of course, Ryan was only the finale—a dessert transformed into a full meal. For our appetizers, Condi Rice waxed professorial in her edifying policy proposals and musings on America’s place in a rapidly changing world. Her paean to the transcendent promise of American Exceptionalism rang a glorious note only the woman born in a segregated world could hold. And the phenomenal reach of her vision shines brighter against the backdrop of a sitting administration long depleted of even the hope for new ideas. Rice’s understanding of education as the civil rights struggle of our time hearkens back to Chris Christie’s valiant charge against the teacher’s unions and the need to be respected before we can be loved. Hers is the lifted voice of a life testifying to the ultimate truth that all conservatism begins with loss and the will to rise and wrestle with the faceless gods of atrophy, grievance, and entitlement for control of our destiny.

As a chaser for Rice, Governor Susana Martinez offered up the simple truths of American conservatism. That welfare is a brace meant to heal, not a lifestyle. That a state expands on the backs of its citizens until their promise is consumed in its service—a new master-slave dialectic for a society deformed into Lost Boys and Last Men. That the wages of dependency are decay and oblivion. That these are the stakes. This election is not ultimately about budgets, healthcare, Medicare, unemployment rates, or tax minutiae. To be sure, these issues matter and must be dealt with. But in the end, our takeaway is that ideas and the visions built upon them matter. We should be wary of leaders who explain more than they govern.

From the rapturous reception of Condi Rice to the Martinez homage to the conservative story to Scott Walker’s enraptured tears at the Ryan oration, we see the promise of America at this Republican convention. These are what leaders look like. This is how they sound, how they resonate, how they cut through passé talking points about tax returns, murdered seniors, and the siren song of identity politics.

Take note, Mr. President. These are the bearers of the vision that will bury you. Like Atlantis and all the vainglory of its imagined pomp and circumstance, your empty promises will go the way of your squandered mandate and the broken promises of yesteryear.

“They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”

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The Medicare Candidate

“Obama cut HOW much from Medicare?!”

I sometimes try to keep up with Rachel Maddow (come on, somebody has to). I managed to get away from my busy schedule of destroying all happiness for the non-rich—Shh! don’t tell the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy—to watch one of her recurring, well-choreographed rants against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s Medicare proposals.

If you’ve been following the recent tide of media coverage of Ryan, you’re probably drowning in a sea of terror. He’s been linked to Ayn “For the Love of Money is the Root of All Good” Rand, whom we are to believe is the indomitable hero of American Conservatism. He’s been accused of throwing Granny off a cliff to help his buddy, Mitt Romney, pay less than 1% in taxes. And he’s a terrible Christian, allegedly.

Of course, Paul Ryan is not an Objectivist, tries to honor Catholic teaching, and doesn’t require his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. And since we’re on the topic of Ayn Rand, many of my friends and I have read some of her works—usually ­The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged—and the vast majority of us, liberal and conservative, are not Objectivists. To contest this is to suggest every fan of Twilight endorses Mormonism and your friend who recommended The Chronicles of Narnia has bent the knee to Orthodox Anglicanism. Then again, I hear the admirers of Gandhi are all secret Hindus.

The aim of all this mudslinging is to obfuscate the real issues on the table and the president’s lack of serious solutions. To this end, liberals are largely ignoring the fact that Ryan has offered multiple concrete proposals to start a conversation, including a Medicare plan designed with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Many reports on Ryan’s Medicare plan have not even mentioned Wyden, let alone how a Blue-State liberal Democratic senator could conspire to kill Grandma.

To her credit, Maddow did touch on the issue, noting that Wyden eventually opposed Ryan’s 2013 budget proposal. But she mendaciously conveniently ignores glosses over the fact that Wyden did, in fact, co-write a Medicare plan with Ryan. The bill Wyden eventually voted down was a larger budget package ultimate killed by partisan gimmicks Democratic leadership months later. (Turns out, Harry Reid is allergic to budgets.) Fearful of becoming the next Cory Booker, Wyden is distancing himself from Ryan to preserve his party’s highly disingenuous cheap shot political weapon.

Whether you agree with Ryan’s proposals or not, he has put forth several and made earnest—and occasionally successful—attempts to cross the aisle. By contrast, the Medicare bill Obama got passed by partisan fiat cut $716 billion to fund ObamaCare. He doesn’t appear to have much else.

Why didn’t Obama do more to enact real reform when he had huge majorities in both houses? Why did the Democrats squander so much time and political capital on a lackluster healthcare takeover when there were other priorities? Why are liberals pretending the Ryan-Wyden plan is the abomination of desolation? Is anything not the Republicans’ fault?  Those are excellent questions! Maybe Maddow and the others will start asking them. (Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.)

In any case, the next time you hear some pundit ranting against conservative ideas, keep track of the competing Democratic proposals. If you haven’t already, you may start to understand why the last best hope of the Obama campaign apparently lies in Mitt Romney’s tax returns.


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Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan!

“If you believe that trying what we’ve already tried and didn’t work is worth trying again… that’s your choice.” –Barack Obama

I’d have done it sooner, but President Obama added more debt in 3 years than his 43 predecessors combined.

First off, a hearty congrats to Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for receiving the nod to join the GOP ticket. I can’t wait for the spirited attacks from totally-not-the-Obama-campaign left-wing Super PACs accusing him of conspiring to starve children, enslave women, torture grandma, and any other fair and accurate criticisms. In making this pick, Gov. Romney has jumped whole hog into a campaign centered on competing visions for the future of civilization, as opposed to merely running as the Anti-Obama. This is the riskier but better choice, and it should help us avoid the despair event horizon of an incorrigibly negative campaign. The American people deserve a serious conversation, and Paul Ryan will make for a great leader in it. That said…

As should surprise no sapient persons, the Obama people are already attacking Ryan’s first budget with vicious aplomb. Of course, we all know that Ryan has also sponsored bipartisan legislation to improve Medicare and ensure its viability. But that’s far too inconvenient a fact for the president’s surrogates. Speaking of budgets, I can’t wait for somebody to ask the president why we have gone more than three years without one. Obviously he has a good reason, or else he wouldn’t be highlighting such a glaring personal weakness to fight a man who at least attempted to do his job. I guess time will tell.

And in case you’re wondering whether a charming Midwestern budget wonk has the experience and wherewithal to be president, just remember: the alternative is a community organizer. At the top of the ticket. You’re welcome.

For some closing treats, Paul Ryan has a new VP Twitter account and Facebook page. More importantly, in case you missed it, the aspiring young veep is also a meme!

These next few months will be fun.