In what was ostensibly the launch of ‘Republicanism 2.0’ young guns Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio both gave ‘vision’ speeches at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner last week, spelling out their revamped conservatism they hope to sell the American public. Michael Tomasky was not impressed, noting neither man made any meaningful shift on policy – a necessity if Republicans want to get elected any time in the next 10 years:
Republicans aren’t anywhere near to exposing themselves to the kind of self-examination and intra-party debate the Democrats undertook after Reagan’s second win. Despite upholstering their speeches with ample liberal rhetoric, and in Rubio’s case those aforementioned quasi-proposals, Rubio and Ryan both stuck hard to current-day GOP gospel. Raising tax rates isn’t an option. Relying on government isn’t the answer, and all the rest. When I read the Ryan remarks I quoted above, as I first started reading those words, I thought to myself, “Ah, might I encounter here an actual nugget of self-criticism?” It came. But it was only about messaging. The substance of their positions, to them, is fine and dandy….
If Ryan or Rubio had been ready to spoon out some bitter medicine, they’d have been catcalled off the stage. Republicans, based on what we’re seeing on Capitol Hill right now, aren’t close to being ready for that. A few conservative intellectuals talk this talk, but never in the history of the relationship between intellectuals and politicians has an intellectual class been so removed from and powerless to influence its political class.
The platform given to Rubio and Ryan in the wake of their defeat is similar to the attention the GOP shone on Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele back in 2008 after McCain and Palin took a beating at the polls. Jindal, probably the least charismatic politician in America was given the weighty task of responding to Obama’s State of the Union speech, and gave perhaps the most uncomfortable rebuttal in US history. Richard Steele was inexplicably given the position of Republican Chairman of the National Committee despite having nothing in his track record to suggest he would be up to the role (and he most definitely wasn’t). The GOP obviously calculated that running minorities for office was the cool thing to do, so they found a couple they believed wouldn’t say anything too risky and thrust them into the limelight. They hadn’t of course realized that Barack Obama had won the election despite the fact he was a minority, and discounted his enormous talent and ability to articulate the frustrations of a generation sick of Republican policies.
As Tomasky points out, “Neither they nor the people they’re talking to are ready to accept that they’ve been wrong about anything except messaging, and until they are, this [Ryan and Rubios speech] is just gaseous rhetoric.”
So we’ve seen the new Republican vision, and it’s no vision at all. Just new messengers delivering the same garbage the public has rejected in two national election, and will reject a third time if it doesn’t change.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.