Paul Ryan has made it clear that he considers himself the Republican Party’s “shadow nominee” for president. As such, he’s trying to lock the contenders for the real nomination into positions he favors — positions that, in some cases, are out-of-step with those advocated by the GOP frontrunners and difficult to reconcile with conservatism as we have long known it.
This, it seems to me, was the purpose of Ryan’s “poverty summit,” held this past weekend in South Carolina. Kudos to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump for skipping the “shadow nominee’s” show. Other things being equal, I favor nominating a candidate strong enough to avoid getting sucked into Paul Ryan’s orbit.
A typical Ryan question to candidates who attended started out “what can be done at the federal level to” fix problem x — education for example. The traditional answer has always been “little or nothing.” That answer is all the more compelling today, when the federal bureaucracy is so dominated by leftists that even well-meaning federal fix-it programs will turn into power grabs by radicals.
See Core, Common.
At times, Ryan’s hubris was astounding. He said things like, after we get the math right (on a particular “conservative” reform item), what about the fundamental question of people’s mindset (Note: I’m going from memory here, having failed to find a transcript). Traditionally, only liberals and those further to the left have displayed the social engineer’s faith in solving problems by “getting the math right.” And it’s the hard left that obsesses over how to get people’s minds right.
The conservative mindset when it comes to the federal government has been, and should remain: do no harm. Unfortunately, this has never been good enough for Boy Scouts like Paul Ryan. Legislative modesty doesn’t cut it for the hyper-ambitious.
Ryan’s do-gooderism is manifested these days by his craving for “sentencing reform.” The sentencing reform legislation he supports would result in (1) the mass release of federal drug felons and (2) a reduction in mandatory minimum sentences, which have played such a large role in the halving of crime during the past 25 years or so.
Naturally, this a huge deal for Democrats. Indeed, it appears to be President Obama’s number one agenda/legacy item for his final year in office.
Remarkably, it is also at the top of Paul Ryan’s to-do list. The Speaker made this clear an interview with Politico. (The article is called “Paul Ryan dreams of a kinder, more substantive GOP.” If we get Ryan’s version of that GOP, I may start dreaming of third party.)
Ryan’s push for “sentencing reform” is a betrayal of both conservatism and common sense. As Daniel Horowitz at Conservative Review puts it:
Law and order was once the silent majority issue that held the GOP together. It defined what it meant to be a Republican. Yet this is the very principle Ryan is agog with anticipation to violate this year.
Horowitz goes on to note additional ironies:
At a time when Obama is releasing thousands of criminal aliens and flooding our country with Islamic immigrants, Republicans will help him create more public safety problems with the release of domestic felons. And never forget, the next step is voting rights.
At a time when Obama and many blue states are infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, he is releasing violent gun felons. Yet, instead of calling him out on this, Republicans plan to give him cover. According to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission that I recently obtained, 2,317 of the 5,920 armed career criminals in federal prison would be eligible for early release under Section 105 of the Senate criminal justice bill (S.2123).
At a time of increased crime and Obama’s war on local law enforcement agencies, Republicans are using their oversight capabilities on House and Senate Judiciary to promote his agenda of arresting it.
At a time when so many legitimate over-crime issues to focus on, from the BLM and ATF to the EPA and Obama’s abuse of the NSA spying programs, Republicans plan to focus on retroactive leniencies for violent drug offenders.
At the height of a heroin epidemic in this country, Republicans are pushing a bill that will retroactively release heroin dealers instead of focusing on the border surge and illegal immigration, both responsible for much of the drug importation into the country.
Horowitz points out, as we have, that Ryan is out-of-step with a clear majority of Americans — and presumably an even bigger majority of Republicans — on sentencing reform. Moreover, if presidential polling is anywhere close to correct, Ryan’s “do-gooder” conservatism is also inconsistent with the views of most Republicans. (Jeb Bush, the leading exponent of this approach in the GOP field, struggles to hold 5 percent of Republican support despite massive spending and major endorsements.)
This matters because the GOP’s majority in the House is — or should be — a bulwark against the leftist agenda the Democrats are pushing. Although Republicans may fail to keep a majority in the Senate and may come up short in the presidential election, they are very likely to retain control of the House.
But if the House leadership crusades to moderate the GOP as it presents itself in Washington, thus alienating itself from the base (and from the Republican majority that seems to be associated with the base), it’s likely that, one way or another, the Party will lose the House before very long.
In the meantime, Ryan will be handing the left significant victories on key agenda items like sentencing reform and (if Omnibus is any indication) spending. This is not what Republicans elected GOP members to do.