So, Mitt Romney announced yesterday that his pick for a vice-presidential running mate is Paul Ryan. I have a few thoughts on this.
One thing that this tells me is that the libertarian wing of the Republican party has had more than a token influence on the Romney campaign. Romney must have been worried that his support among Tea Party (and Ron Paul) supporters would have been too weak to help him win unless he convinced them that he was serious about dealing with entitlements, spending, taxes, and the debt with a move of this magnitude.
It also tells me something about Romney. I’ve been concerned that he was only for small-government by Massachusetts standards, and that his actions might betray the positive-sounding rhetoric as soon as it seemed politically advantageous. But, this choice seems like a bold and clear signal that he intends to follow-through on that rhetoric.
But, what really encourages me about this pick is that it seems to indicate that this campaign will be an ideological one. Rather than just promoting themselves as “Not Obama” and running against the sluggish economy with vague appeals for change, the Republicans will actually make the case for smaller government. I haven’t seen a major candidate make that kind of choice since Ronald Reagan. And, while I don’t really know that much about Romney, he does seem to be sharp, decent, and a good communicator. Likewise for Paul Ryan, who (while his actual voting record leaves a lot to be desired), he’s very sharp and will be able to speak about the issues both philosophically and at the level of nitty-gritty policy details. So these are good candidates to make the case. Neither of these guys will be thrown off by ridiculous attacks and false claims. They’ll be able to call “Bullshit!” on bullshit (diplomatically, of course). Even if the media will be biased against them, in this age of YouTube and Facebook I’m sure that creative people will spread great videos with their responses in very short order, making the truth starkly apparent. It will not be as easy to get away with conventional tactics this time. People who are interested, or who have friends who are, will have access to both sides of the argument.
I’m not sure that this ideological debate will win the Republicans the election (and I’m not even positive that I expect their victory to be better than gridlocked, divided government). But, real progress won’t happen until most voters are convinced that a smaller government is better than a bigger one that promises them lots of goodies. I hope that this campaign will be a step towards that day.