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Paul Ryan: already the winner on Wall Street

Check out the cleancut visage, the powder blue shirt/white T shirt combo and the family photographs featuring beautiful wife and three wholesome kiddies. Check out the seamless progression from PPE degree to elected office, pausing only for the obligatory stint as a special adviser cum think tank wonk.

Paul Ryan emblemises a political type now instantly familiar on both sides of the Atlantic, and has naturally been hailed by British rightwingers who cannot have known who he was when they woke up last Saturday morning as just the man to add vitally needed conservative backbone to the Republican ticket for the White House.

The palpable enthusiasm is broadly similar to that seen when McCain unveiled Sarah Palin as his running mate four years ago. Perhaps the main difference is that back in 2008, prominent middle-aged male pundits couched their commentary in tones of barely concealed erotic longing, a sentiment that Ryan seemingly does not inspire.

Nevertheless, he is certainly a more cerebral proposition than his predecessor. Ryan will be well aware that Africa is not one country, that North Korea is not a US ally, and that there is no such word as ‘refudiate’.

He is an outright devotee of rightwing economics, and – although he has subsequently tried to distance himself from his former hero worship of Ayn Rand – overtly atheist rightwing philosophy.

In a country where intellectualism is never prized over either populism or pragmatism, politicians that have actually read some of the books written by the authors whose names others are content to drop with embarrassing frequency are virtually unknown quantities.

It is quite clear whose economic interests these ideologies represent, and policies such as the privatisation of social security should by rights be difficult to sell to American working people in a period of economic uncertainty.

Even so, the WSJ is hopeful he can pull it off: ‘You can almost hear Wall Street slobbering,’ it enthusiastically confides. Among his top ten donors are Goldman Sachs and UBS.

Romney and Ryan, then, are very much Team 1%. That obviously leaves Obama the option of running the campaign on the nearest approximation that US politics offers to a class basis, which is not to say that he will take it.

But that said, Ryan enjoys the major advantage of a sympathetic media, perpetually on hand to pump out dumbed-down versions of his chosen doctrines 24/7 between now and next November.

The erstwhile frat boy will, of course, face extensive scrutiny of his backstory. The discovery of one former girlfriend who underwent an abortion during their relationship – and of course, I give this example purely by way of a thought experiment – might be enough to derail much of his appeal to the pro-life lobby.

I’ll also be keeping an eye on how well a Mormon/Catholic ticket plays with the evangelicals who make up a considerable proportion of the GOP’s activist base, although this is a complication the US right is confident it can overcome.

OK, Ryan was a new name to me as well, at least until a few days ago. But from the information so far in the public domain in this country, he seems a businesslike choice for Romney, in both senses of the word. As a British lefty I am obviously hoping for his defeat, but I am entirely clear that he will not be a pushover.

One Comment

  1. Syzygy says:

    Paul Krugman’s assessment of Ryan’s policies, before there was any thought of him becoming VP. He sounds pretty much like George Osborne to me

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