The Modern Conservative Anti-Agenda – or – Paul Ryan vs. “True Conservatism”

For the last five-plus years, I’ve assumed that there was a deep, dark problem in the GOP. The party looked to this liberal outsider like it was tearing itself apart from within, but I hadn’t been able to find any cause or see any definitive proof of this.

Until recently.

John Boehner finally agreed–or let’s assume that he’d agreed to the demands of some in the party–to resign, both from the speakership in the House, but also from his House seat itself. So, as the rules and order of the House demands, campaigns started to put forth candidates to replace him. And then the true problems bubbled to the surface. Names were put into nomination, and voices would shout them down, often claiming they weren’t conservative enough. Kevin McCarthy appeared to have the vote in the bag, and then pulled out of consideration, thus exposing the huge internal fracture to the world.

The far right, who appear to want to be called “true conservatives” apparently don’t want to play by the same rules that have governed the house for 200+ years. They don’t want to compromise. And they don’t want their leader to, either.

Okay, but what explains their feelings on this? Conservative blogs are usually long on fluff and opinion, but short on actual fact and real content. Then I saw this post today, over on the usually laughable and extraordinarily angry Powerline Blog. The headline ostensibly points out the reasons why a Paul Ryan speakership of the House would be a disaster. But the text under the head is more illuminating than most anything else I’ve read, especially when paired with Ryan’s own words from his press conference announcing his candidacy (that text is all pulled from the transcript from his own website).

Inaction Is Our Platform

I’ll grant you that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was rammed through congress by an overconfident and strident Democratic majority, but that seems to have set the stage for an aggressively inert Republican party, to the point that both Ryan and the Powerline blog make reference to their inactions of the last 5+ years:

First, we need to move from being an opposition party to a proposition party. – Ryan’s address


The House’s proper role has been to block President Obama’s attempts to enact legislation that will transform the country. Since the 2010 election, it has done so. – Powerline Blog

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the legislative branch supposed to to just as its name implies: legislate? Isn’t failing to pass any bills the very antithesis of legislating? Oh wait…They passed a bill to eliminate Obamacare 30-some-odd times. Guess they weren’t sitting on their hands, after all…

But Paul Ryan believes that the House should be acting on something:

Ryan apparently believes that the role of the House is to “solv[e] the country’s problems.” – Powerline Blog

That sounds like something everyone can get behind, right? Solving problems? Acting in the best interest of the nation? Nope.

This is wrong philosophically. Conservatives don’t look to Washington for solutions to America’s problems. They see Washington as part of the problem, not the solution. They mainly want Washington to get out of the way. -Powerline Blog

So what’s the answer?


Ryan, like Boehner, sees the need to compromise with other sides on issues and work together to accomplish goals.

“Here is how I see it. . . .

It is our duty to serve the people the way they deserve to be served. It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get back on track.

The challenges we face today are too difficult and demanding for us to turn our backs and walk away.

Global terror . . . wars on multiple fronts . . . a government grown unaccountable, unconstitutional, and out-of-touch . . . persistent poverty, a sluggish economy, flat wages, and a sky-rocketing debt.

But we cannot take them on alone. Now, more than ever, we must work together.

All of us are representatives of the people—all the people. We have been entrusted by them to lead.

And yet the people we serve do not feel that we are delivering on the job they hired us to do. We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be speaker, I want us to become the solution. – Ryan’s address

…And rebuttal?

Thus, in order to do something grand, Ryan must collaborate with the Democrats. Conservatives almost never make out well in such collaborations. – Powerline Blog

Translation: We’ve never really gotten the hang of negotiation, so we’re just not going to play the game any more. Toodles!

Oh, and on the subject of the House being part of the problem itself, what have ye to say about that, Powerline Blog?

Ryan’s statement is also wrong on the facts. The House hasn’t failed to solve problems, and certainly hasn’t added to them. With Democrats in control of the White House and holding the power to filibuster legislation in the Senate, the House cannot enact laws. Under these circumstances, blaming it for not solving problems is ridiculous. It also happens to [be] the Democrat/MSM [Mainstream Media] line, not the line of any self-respecting Republican.

Just read that again, please, and let those words sink in: “The House hasn’t failed to solve problems…[because] with Democrats in control of the White House and holding the power to filibuster legislation in the Senate, the House cannot enact laws.” Ah. So, in spite of the Republicans being the majority in both houses of congress, they still can’t pass anything? Or, put another way, because the minority can filibuster and veto, we just aren’t going to bother. Or finally, and most clearly: because we aren’t an absolute majority, screw it!

“Under these circumstances, blaming it for not solving problems is ridiculous. It also happens to [be] the Democrat/MSM [Mainstream Media] line, not the line of any self-respecting Republican.” Translation: It’s not our fault! Circumstances! That’s silly! They said it, not us! It’s not us! Uh uh. No way. We’re self-respecting Republicans!

Except that the circumstances mentioned above are a Republican congressional majority, with a House whose “proper role has been to block President Obama’s attempts to enact legislation that will transform the country,” that negotiation thing, and, oh yeah, Obama.

Blame Obama. It’s his fault. Except…about that blame thing…

People don’t care about blame. They don’t care about effort. They care about results. Results that are meaningful. Results that are measurable. Results that make a difference in their daily lives. – Ryan’s address

Results that haven’t come from Republican inaction.

Beware The Anti-Agenda

Just remember: Obama’s fault, the House’s role is to block things and not enact laws, and the mainstream media.

But seriously, this just shows how unimportant governance is to conservatives in congress. Obviously, they either do not understand what governance means (hint: it’s the act of governing), or they don’t care about governance. If the answer to everything in congress that you don’t like is to shut down government, or make it impossible for laws to be passed, then you effectively stop the country and its government from adapting to an ever changing world. And whether you’re a liberal or conservative, a government failing to keep pace with the needs of its people and the world is a potentially disastrous thing.

Maybe they’ll finally get that.


The Fault In Our Politics

I was reading  piece online that, while intriguing, isn’t worth linking to here, but brought up an interesting point which can be echoed across the political spectrum in this country as we hurtle ceaselessly toward another glorious presidential election next year.

The writer’s entire point was that they are totally turned off by politicians they’d otherwise support, and in fact, have supported in the past. They’re turned off by the process and the bickering within their own party over the last year. And at this point, they see no alternative but to not even participate in the process next year.

To be fair, while this was aimed specifically at the Republican party, this could probably be said about the Democrats too. And it illustrates the larger issues dividing this nation. So let’s look at these complaints in a broad way, because specifics would take forever…

The writer was saying that after the midterm sweep in congress, there was an expectation that the Republicans would do what they’d promised: overturn the Affordable Care Act, fix the budget problems that have been an open wound on the side of congress for so many years now, make some moves on the social agenda, and truly make Obama a lame duck for the last two years of his term. But we all know that virtually nothing has been done. In fact, in thinking about it, I’m hard pressed to even come up with anything meaningful that congress HAS passed.

And that makes me disappointed in the Democrats. Because they clearly haven’t been trying to advance any kind of agenda, either. To top it off, it feels like the last year in politics has actually been owned and driven by the Supreme Court, which should alarm even those who have supported their rulings.

We know that there are vast chasms across the political divide, with the theoretical majority of people (moderates) falling largely silent, while the extremes have taken to yelling at each other and getting substantially more airtime. And yet, no one has managed to move the political football at all for a couple of years now.

So is the problem ineffective leadership, or an ineffective and sharply divided electorate?

First off, note that the truly smart people are staying on the sidelines for the presidential campaign: Elizabeth Warren, Paul Ryan, and Amy Klobuchar. While each is deeply committed to their party and their party’s platforms, each of these potential candidates isn’t the type to yell, demonstrate, or directly insult someone from the other side.

Second, note that those in charge of each party’s platform for the last few years have effectively stepped out of the spotlight: John Boehner hasn’t been heard from since the first Republican debate, and Harry Reid is actually leaving Congress entirely at the end of his term. For Boehner, it could be because however the election comes out next fall, he’s probably going to be thrown out as speaker. But I don’t think he doesn’t care about policy or the platform. Rather, I believe he’s grown tired of the bullshit coming from his own party.

And that’s the third thing: both parties are actively trying to tear themselves apart from within. Powerful, loud voices are being heard from the fringe of both parties–voices that have always been there, but have always been willing to be quiet if they were given some small concessions by the party. These voices, best represented by Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, are coming from groups that have been dismissed as being on the fringe for too long. So as much as the Clinton and Bush presidencies were characterized as a race toward the political middle, the next president will likely preside over parties chasing the outside wings.

Trump and Sanders, in particular, have tapped into the deepest and sometimes darkest parts of the far right and far left political opinion in this country. And they’ve successfully managed to communicate effectively to those groups and energize them enough to rally around the campaigns. But the question is how much energy is there in these groups? can it last another 14 months?

The curious thing about the process as it stands right now is that I don’t see a clear-cut leader emerging from either side. There’s no way in hell that either Trump or Sanders can capture a majority of voters in a general election, because Sanders is a socialist (which the people of this nation don’t fully understand, but think is a bad thing), and a Trump presidency (even to a lot of conservatives) is just a scary thing.

So is there enough support and energy from the moderates and possibly a couple of fringe groups to regain control and move things forward? Based on the tone of the article I read online, there may not be. And that’s a big problem.