In a new book out Tuesday, Republican congressman and 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville says his party is doomed to future defeats unless it broadens its appeal beyond a traditional base of older white voters.He even recognizes his own part in the GOPs image problems.
"Preaching to the choir isn't working, and by the way, the choir is shrinking," Ryan writes in "The Way Forward," a combination memoir and manifesto that is seen by some in Washington as a prelude to a presidential run in 2016. It comes with a national publicity campaign and book tour that stops in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Milwaukee and Chicago on Thursday, and Florida on Friday.
Ryan says his party needs to be more inclusive, spend far more time talking to black and Latino voters, and avoid playing into what he calls a caricature of the "cold-hearted Republican."
In his new book, Ryan claims his change of heart came from a conversation he had with a constituent over "makers and takers". He says he was asked if a veteran returning from war and getting care at VA or someone who lost their job and was getting Unemployment benefits were "takers".
Ryan said he eventually stopped using the term when he realized that "it sounds like we're saying people who are struggling are deadbeats. ... The phrase gave insult where none was intended."Well, when the policies they promoted, talking points they used, and image they created led directly to a brutal defeat in 2012, only a fool would continue on that same path. And self-promoting Paul Ryan is no fool. He must have noticed he even lost his own hometown in his re-election - a re-election that has always been easy.
Politically, "The Way Forward" is a summation of long held, fervent conservative views and policy ideas, combined with calls for civility and a search for whatever bipartisan common ground may be out there.Yes, he feeds red meat to the base. Of course.
For readers on the right, Ryan offers a broad attack on progressivism across the decades and a sharp denunciation of Barack Obama as a president whose "policies represent an ideological mission to re-order the human condition through state action, empowering bureaucrats to decide what's best for everyone rather than allowing citizens to govern themselves."
He says Republicans have to define themselves by what they're for, not just what they're against. He suggests that by insisting on purity, some conservatives squander the chance to make small but real progress in Congress. He says his party must practice political "prudence" and must also be more inclusive.Translation: He recognizes that "the base" isn't enough to win elections anymore. After all, you can gerrymander the House of Representatives (as Republicans have done with great benefit to the GOP since 2010), but you can't gerrymander the country. With shifting demographics, the number of old, white voters is diminishing. We're headed in the direction of a non-white majority - a majority that Republicans continue to assault with policies favoring corporations and the 1%.
Ryan suggests "bipartisanship" on some issues, like immigration, and interacting with minority communities as a way to widen Republican appeal. However, he still believes that conservative ideas are popular and will win if there is a "clear choice" between candidates in an election.
That belief would seem to be debunked by the 2012 election results when "conservative ideas" lost decisively. He does describe being surprised by Obamas re-election, but declines to say why he thinks his ticket lost.
No, Ryan isn't changing his tune. It seems he's simply changing his image to one that appears kinder, gentler, and more friendly. He certainly feels that there aren't problems with the contents of the package he's selling, but it needs to be wrapped differently.
After all, he's got a book to sell. And maybe Presidential ambitions to fulfill, too.