A Tale of Two Ryans

Rep. Tim Ryan

Yesterday I noted that Republicans now dominate many old blue collar manufacturing districts that used to tilt decisively Democratic as recently as Bill Clinton’s time. And one of the Democrats who has made some noises about how the neglect of the working class in the heartland has been a mistake for Democrats is Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who unsuccessfully challenged Nancy Pelosi for the leadership of the House Democratic caucus after the last election.

Now Rep. Ryan is talking up a possible candidacy for president in 2020. Before going to the news of this, pause for a moment to recall how Mark Lilla of Columbia University got into a lot of trouble for his book last summer, The Once and Future Liberal, because it attacked the identity politics that is now so central to the left. (For this heresy, one of his Columbia faculty colleagues called him “David Duke in academic robes.”) One of my favorite lines from his book is that the Democratic Party had become “the party of Jessica yoga mat.”

So what is Rep. Ryan’s central idea behind his candidacy to gain back working class? No, this story isn’t from The Onion, though it does seem to confirm Lilla’s comic line:


. . . Ryan’s district is one of the few poor, majority-white districts that is represented by a Democrat. But he won’t be running on a stereotypical working-class persona; instead, he believes his path to the White House runs through the “yoga vote.”

Ryan has long been a champion of mindfulness, meditation, and similar pursuits, and has even created a “Quiet Time Caucus” in the House of Representatives. James Gimian, the publisher of Mindful magazine who knows Ryan, said he isn’t sure whether Ryan will run for president, but that the yoga vote has gone mainstream in recent years. “The so-called yoga voters are the kind of folks who realize that while they grew up with their mom saying, ‘Pay attention,’ nobody trained them in how to pay attention and use their mind to focus on what’s important,” he said. “That’s a growing population — it’s no longer just Lululemon yoga women.” He said that anybody who is negotiating the “emotional land mine of modern day living” could be someone Ryan’s message would resonate with.

Yeah, I’m sure someone who preaches the virtues of yoga meditation and founded the “Quiet Time Caucus” is the perfect person to match up with the loudmouth Trump.

Meanwhile, let us cast a quick glimpse over at the Republican Ryan for a fitting contrast—Paul Ryan, the soon-to-retire Speaker of the House. I know people like to beat up Ryan, but what is his favorite exercise and outlet from the rigors of day-to-day politics: P90X.

In other words, the two parties break down like this:

  • Tim Ryan: Yoga meditation.
  • Paul Ryan: P90X.

No wonder the two parties are so polarized. Not much crossfitness (heh) going on between them.

Postscript from the story:

Ryan, who was elected to Congress at age 29, is the author of the 2012 book “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”

Maybe he can release a new edition of the book, and call it Art of the Kneel.


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