Seems that a lot of people want him in the position – and he’s highly reluctant to do it. Partially this would be because as Chairman of Ways and Means, he’s already one of the most powerful people in Washington; another part would be that Speaker is a thankless job…but I think another part of it would be a supreme lack of ambition on the part of the man. And that, in and of itself, commends him highly for the job.
First off, let me say I’m not one of the scorched-earth variety of conservative. I do believe that compromise is necessary to get anything done in DC, unless by some miracle you wind up with the White House and a massive majority in Congress – and everyone is pretty much on the same page. That happens very rarely. Running through the history I can really only think of three times it happened – early in the Civil War when the secession of the South left the GOP is absolute control in DC, and when the Democrats blew out the GOP in the 30’s and 60’s. Other than that, if you want to get things done, you have to offer at least something to the minority party, even if it is in practical terms eye wash.
That said, I do believe that the problem with the Congressional GOP is the fear of a fight on principle. Part of this is, of course, because some of them lack any principles – they are in politics for purely personal ambition and they are only GOP because they wound up living in an area of the country where the GOP is dominant…move some of them to the San Francisco Bay Area and in a week they’d become ultra liberal because that is how you get ahead (and don’t let us kid ourselves – a lot of liberal Democrats are just like that…move them to a GOP area of the country and watch them shift to the right to maintain electoral viability). Another part of it is that a lot of people who go into politics are really small people – pitiable creatures who are kept up awake at night by a hostile leading article in a newspaper; who worry what their perceived betters in the socio-economic food chain might think of them; who’s greatest fear is being found on the “wrong” side of an issue. The combination of this has hamstrung the GOP, especially – because our leaders, unlike the Democrat leaders, are mostly a mixture of the two things – the unprincipled and the afraid. Of course, Democrats do have it easier – the MSM, largely being of the left, shields the Democrat leadership from the fires of public scorn. But even with that advantage, the bottom line is that the Democrat leaders are willing to fight. Say what you will of Reid and Pelosi, they do go to the mat and get down and dirty in the political game…more then willing to take a hit in order to advance the Democrat ball.
These facts are just common to democratic governance – the chances that any particular person entering politics will be a genius along the lines of Lincoln are just as good that any particular person entering music composition will be a Mozart. That is, the chances are just about zero. These people who rule in our name are made of the common clay of humanity – heir to all the follies of humanity. But in the normal run of events, most of the time the people who rise to the top do have something extra…that extra bit of drive or intellect or simple desire to make things work. They are willing to take risks – even risks which can ruin them, if it comes out badly. For some reason or another, since the fall of Gingrich, the Congressional GOP has lacked anyone on top who has that little extra. This is why I welcome this bit of disarray in our ranks – it means that we’re about to shake things up. Now, maybe we roll snake eyes and get even worse leadership…but maybe we get lucky and hit the jackpot.
I don’t know if Ryan is the jackpot – but he’s certainly better than the current crop of leadership, while still retaining that “insider” status which makes him acceptable to the unprincipled and the afraid. And, just perhaps, he’ll be able to craft a strategy to advance our agenda, and prove he has the mettle to stand up to the slings and arrows…making himself the willing target of abuse. I guess we’ll see – if Ryan accepts it, and then if he can do the job.