Political disruption and its limits

In the aftermath of Rand Paul’s filibuster Rick Wilson at Ricochet suggests that “disruption” is the Republican’s “path back to power.” Rand Paul has shown that disruption is a path to trending on twitter. But is it really a path to power?

Yes and no.

Yes, Republicans would be well-served by disrupting the liberal/MSM narrative. Dynamic young candidates from humble or middle class origins can dent the narrative that Republicans are staid and elitist. But youth is not a prerequisite for disruption. Ronald Reagan was nearly 60 when he began shaking things up on the national stage.

Reagan shook things up with his disruptive ideas. The best example of his outside-the-box thinking occurred when he rejected the traditional Republican emphasis on balanced budgets, achieved in part through high taxation, in favor of promoting growth via tax cuts. This is a bit ironic given the current situation, but there it is.

Not all disruptive ideas are created equal. The ones most likely to provide a “path back to power” will be well-thought-out. And only well-thought-out ideas will enable Republicans to exercise power properly and over a sustained period.

Rand Paul thinks outside-the-box. But his ideas are mostly toned-down versions of his father’s views and, when it comes to national security, toned-down versions of the views of Code Pink. They provide a dubious path back to power and a recipe for disaster should power be achieved.

Marco Rubio thinks outside-the-Republican-box on immigration. But his ideas about immigration represent a toned-down (I hope) version of the views of Chuck Schumer. To the extent they provide a path back to power, they do so by pandering to Hispanic voters. As such, they cannot provide a platform for power without additional concessions that eventually would render the Republican Party non-conservative.

But there is one young conservative who quietly has been thinking outside-the-box for years. He rose to prominence (the chair of a key House Committee) years ahead of schedule not by disruptive behavior, but by disruptive thinking founded on the mastery of arcane policy detail.

That young conservative, of course, is Paul Ryan. And his disruptive thoughts go the heart of the central issues of the day (for Republicans) — economic growth, the budget, and the debt.

Frankly, I worry that Ryan’s advanced thinking about Medicare and Social Security — the prime examples of his “disruption” –leaves him exposed to effective Democratic demagoguery. That’s why I regarded him as a less than optimal candidate for vice president in 2012. It’s too early for me to have formed an opinion as to whether Ryan would be sub-optimal, from an electoral standpoint, in 2016.

But if, as I suspect, disruptive thinking grounded in knowledge represents the path back to power for Republicans, we should be thinking more about Paul Ryan and less about Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.


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