Paul Ryan will try to be the leading voice of the Republican Party in its attempt to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
His demands on his Republican colleagues are relatively soft, not sharp. He spells out his agenda in a passage insisting on his right to be home with family. “I may not be on the road as often as previous speakers, but I pledge to make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message.”
With his ideological roots in Ayn Rand and classic conservative philosophers, Ryan thinks of himself as an intellectual dedicated to a counter-revolution against the New Deal and every strand of modern progressive thought. He is a product of rigorous Catholic education. He has largely succeeded in achieving respect from the media and political class, partly because he separates himself from irrational extremism of the ‘Freedom Caucus’. His ability to negotiate a budget deal last year with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray reinforced his reputation for relative sanity.
His base in white conservative Janesville, Wisconsin, says much about his philosophical leanings to toward tax cuts for the rich in order to stimulate the growth of new revenues by unleashing the appetites of the market. He is a stalwart devotee of the writings of Ayn Rand.
With the current Republican Party in shambles, its leading candidates out of touch with mainstream voters, Ryan hopes to overcome the disadvantage by, “communicating our vision, our message,” which means transcending the district-level squabbling in favor of constant intellectual calls for Republican adherence to less government, less taxes, more defense spending, and the embrace of conservative Christian values. A practiced debater, he is confident that his faith-based version of free enterprise is more compelling than the expensive and bureaucratic path of modern liberalism personified by Hillary Clinton and the specter of Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism.
If politics is more about interests than ideology, he will lose, but it could be a close race, sharply dividing the country along race, gender and class lines. Either way he becomes the modernizing face of a very old Republicanism, positioned for 2020.