Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan, the bold chairman of the House Budget Committee and a young rising star of the GOP, to be his running mate.
This means that Romney is even bolder and smarter than Ronald Reagan (no offense to the late 40th President intended; he’s my greatest political hero and one of the greatest US presidents ever).
Ronald Reagan was a great, bold, and smart president, but he did make a few mistakes, and arguably the most fatal one was to choose George H.W. Bush as his running mate, a decision that cost the GOP dearly in the 1990s and 2000s.
To find out why, let’s first recount the circumstances under which it was made. In 1980, during the Republican National Convention in Detroit, after Reagan had been nominated, he still had to choose his running mate and announce his name to the world.
The GOP establishment dearly wanted a RINO like Gerald Ford or Daddy Bush to be selected. They even threatened Reagan with withholding any support from him, including money from the GOP’s whale donors, unless Reagan would pick one of these RINOs.
Ed Rollins, who was a very close aid of Reagan’s at the time and would later chair Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, narrates what happened:
“The short list for VP was down to Paul Laxalt, Jack Kemp, George Bush, Howard Baker — and heaven help us — Jerry Ford.
Reagan’s personal A-list included just Laxalt and Kemp….”
(Paul Laxalt is, of course, a former Governor of and Senator from Nevada, California’s eastern neighbor. He served as Governor in Carson City while Reagan run things in Sacramento; was a staunch conservative except on the issue of the MX missile; and he was a longtime trusted friend of Reagan’s.)
After noting that both Laxalt and Kemp would’ve made “superb vice presidents”, with Rollins specifically calling Kemp “the bridge to the next generation of conservatives”, Rollins goes on to say that:
“As usual, Reagan’s instincts were better than anyone else’s. I’d later learn that he didn’t always rely on those instincts. He’d fight like hell for the big things, but give in on the little ones. What he didn’t realize that night at the convention was that nothing was bigger than the choice he’d make in the next few hours. He let his handlers roll him on Laxalt and Kemp.”
So in the end, Ronald Reagan caved in to the GOP Establishment and chose Daddy Bush.
The decision had disastrous, though long-term, consequences for the Republican Party. Daddy Bush rode Ronald Reagan’s coattails to the White House in 1988, then impleneted liberal policies and broke his No New Taxes Pledge, and was unceremoniously booted out of the White House just four years later, crawling out of DC with just 39% of the popular vote. A party that stood at the height of its popularity and power in the 1980s was now out of the wilderness thanks to Bush and Republicans like him, with the Democrats controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate.
Eight years later, Bush’s son (who would’ve been a nobody if his daddy hadn’t been President) barely won the election by a smidgen, barely won reelection in 2004, and ruined the GOP’s reputation with his Big Government domestic policies and with the Iraq war that by 2005 began to become more and more unpopular. The GOP, thanks to him, lost the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. As a result, Barack Obama is now President.
These were the long-term disastrous consequences of choosing Daddy Bush as the VP candidate in 1980. Of course, Roanald Reagan could not have foreseen them. No one could have. But Ronald Reagan should have known that a RINO like Daddy Bush would’ve meant trouble sooner or later. He should’ve listened to his political instincts, which were sound.
But Mitt Romney has made a better decision.
Like Reagan, Romney is the underdog in a battle to unseat an incumbent, failed, extremely liberal Demoratic President, and is trailing him in the polls (although only by small margins). And like Reagan, Romney was certainly pressured and blackmailed by the GOP Establishment (if only it were as ruthless and as harsh with the Democrats as it is with conservatives!).
But unlike Reagan, Romney has not succumbed to this pressure and has chosen a conservative running mate.
And whereas Ronald Reagan sadly passed on the chance to pick the man who, at the time, was “the bridge to the next generation of conservatives” (Jack Kemp), Mitt Romney has chosen one of the leaders of the next generation of conservatives (and the political heir to Jack Kemp) as his running mate. And in so doing, he has provided for the Conservative Succession, an important goal as nicely explained by Jeffrey Lord here.
Mitt Romney is 64. He will be the last Baby Boomer to be elected President. Paul Ryan (born in 1970) is a member, indeed a leader, of the next generation of conservatives. Nominating him for Vice President will practically guarantee him (if he and Romney win this election) the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016 or 2020. It puts him firmly in line to become the party’s standard bearer by then. And as a consequence, it will bring about a whole new generation of conservatives into the highest echelons of the federal government, including the executive branch.
It means that a Conservative Succession, a turnover from one generation of Republicans (a moderate one) to another, more conservative and far bolder generation of Republicans, has been provided for.
And therefore, it means that conservatives, indeed all Americans who are not liberals, now have a reason to vote for Romney rather than just against Obama.
Or, as Jeff Lord put it in his masterpiece article:
“The irony here for Romney and conservatives is that at this point they badly need each other. Romney needs an energized conservative base to both defeat Obama and govern successfully. Without enthusiastic conservative support, Obama wins.
And conservatives? They are in fact the heart and soul of the modern GOP. They have, in many ways, de facto control of the party. It is in the conservative interest to make absolutely certain that in electing Mitt Romney they are paving the way for, yes indeed, a post-Romney presidency.
Understanding that if in fact Romney is elected, at some point whether in four or eight years, there will be a Conservative Succession.
And that Conservative Succession must be provided for now — in 2012. With a young conservative who has Nixonian staying power, and who himself or herself is willing and able to bring along other young conservatives as he or she makes his way through the corridors of power.”
You can read the whole thing here: http://spectator.org/archives/2012/06/12/mitt-romney-and-the-conservati/2