November 7, 2016


The Devil and Paul Ryan : America's soul, and his own, at stake (Paul Berman, November 7, 2016, The Tablet)

Ryan, though, has been presented to us for many years as a thoughtful man. He is even said to be a man of ideas: a disciple of Milton Friedman and, in his youth, of Ayn Rand, who matured sufficiently to prefer Aquinas.  He wrote speeches for Jack Kemp. The burnish of intellect is upon him, if only in a speechwriter's version. And Ryan has been presented to us as the incarnation of the small-town dream, in its Republican version, than which nothing is dreamier--Janesville, Wisconsin's leading citizen, the impeccable family man and humble congregant. When Ryan poses for his photo-ops in front of wooden porches, dressed in crisp shirtsleeves and blue jeans and gazing with frank democratic ease at the camera, you are meant to think that here is the authentic descendant of Lincoln and Reagan, the sons of Illinois, even if Reagan moved to Hollywood. And the authentic descendant has made a point of displaying his ruminative sobriety.

In the early stages of the campaign, he plainly understood that something appalling was happening to the Republican Party, and he responded with a multiphase show of hesitation--his delayed and slightly tortured endorsement of the candidate in the columns of the Janesville Gazette, his dis-invitation of the candidate to a Wisconsin political fair, his announcement that he would not be campaigning for the candidate, and finally his announcement that he has already voted for the candidate, which was a way of signaling that everyone else in the Republican Party ought to overcome their own small-town and virtuous revulsion and vote likewise.

In this extended fashion, Ryan has shown us that he knows; and he doesn't care. He knows that he has called upon people to vote for everything that he is against. Sometimes he has even specified what he is against. It was Ryan who uttered the denuncation, "a textbook definition of a racist comment." The descendant of Lincoln called for Republicans to vote for the author of the racist comment, even so. Then again, Ryan called for Republicans to vote for the opposite of Reagan's greatest legacy, too. The Republican candidate is, after all, the only philo-czarist to run for president on a major party ticket in the history of the United States. But there is no point in tabulating the many ways in which the Republican candidate represents a rupture in the American political tradition.

The saddest part of this election has been watching decent conservatives contort themselves to support a racist.  At least the nativists are being despicable honestly.

Posted by at November 7, 2016 1:46 PM