I’ve been ruminating recently about Romney’s VP selection of Paul Ryan. I know I’m not alone since the entire Internet has been blowing up over it, dissecting Ryan’s records and views and general way of being. His stances on reproductive rights, which are horrifying, and his views on the economy, also horrifying, have been covered in great depth on a variety of news media from every conceivable angle. His love of Ayn Rand and apparent confusion over the fact that her atheist beliefs of selfishness do not comfortably juxtapose Ryan’s Catholicism (would Jesus approve of Ayn Rand, I think not). And his commitment to selfishness should not be discounted when discussing his policies. How can we expect someone who espouses the ideals of selfishness (and, in fact cites Ayn Rand as his reason for entering politics – explain how that makes sense) to have everyone’s best interests at heart? We know his budget plan is bad for everyone but millionaires and we know this is not an accident.
“This economic ideology might be acceptable if it worked. But it actually broke the world.” – Imara Jones, Colorlines
Ryan promotes Rand’s idealist view of capitalism, suggesting that government is the problem with our country and capitalism is the solution – a frightening prospect from someone running for Vice President. It reminds me of Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation (if you haven’t watched that yet, do. Amy Poehler’s character is the most feminist on TV right now). Ron Swanson believes that government is bad and his whole purpose in being the head of a department is to ensure it spends less and is the least efficient government possible. Sounds something like our own politicians, doesn’t it? The difference is that Ron Swanson has a nuanced view of how government works, is willing to compromise with his differently minded colleagues, and has a deep respect for women. Our own elected officials seem to miss these finer points.
Ryan’s budget plan is terrifying, gutting everything from health care to education to energy (especially the green stuff), but national defense and military spending are conspicuously absent. His plans are like those of a superhero villain – but he is unable to recognize his own malevolence. He uses the moral philosophy of Ayn Rand, that the pursuit of wealth at the expense of others is a just and moral endeavor – in fact the only endeavor that has morality on its side. Ryan is not just pandering to corporations; he genuinely believes what he is saying. He believes that the wealthy deserve what they have and the poor are suffering based on personal shortcomings and a lack of ambition. He believes the key to a utopian society is to ensure the rich get richer and the poor get what they have coming – nothing. Ryan’s budget plan wouldn’t balance a cart full of horseshit – it will, however, ensure that the rich are well protected from whatever may come of our government’s downfall. Or, perhaps, the corporate takeover of our government is not a downfall at all, but merely replacing the unnecessary ideas of democracy with something far more productive – capitalism, of course.
Our country has been moving in this direction for quite some time now. As other countries fight for their freedom of speech (see Pussy Riot) or make progress towards more education and equality for its citizens (see all sorts of uprisings in the Middle East) we have continued to move backward. Our news media has been compromised by corporate money, as have our politicians. I don’t care what the GOP say, they are waging a war on the poor. And women. And people of color. And immigrants. And LGBT populations. And any religion other than Christianity (Jews are okay, for now).
Apart from the budget, Ryan’s position on any number of issues are equally self-serving and alienating to the American public. He believes that personhood begins at fertilization (an assertion with which science disagrees). In fact, Ryan’s views on reproduction are so radical that Romney’s own children would be criminals under his laws.
All of these are troubling issues. But still, what most confuses me is why Romney would choose a running mate who does not, who cannot, appeal to most of the population. It seems as if he is throwing the election by choosing such a radical counterpart. Romney is known for his aversion to risk and yet has chosen a running mate who is all-too-risky. Some argue that this risk has already paid off because Obama is unwilling to engage in a ‘serious’ debate with Ryan. However, I argue that the risk has paid off in a more literal sense. Romney chose Ryan because of his status as a conservative darling. His charisma and ideals are just the thing large corporations are willing to invest in – especially the oh-so-loved Koch brothers from Ryan’s home state. Romney is not blind to the fact that Ryan cuts off moderate and more liberal leaning voters. He knows Ryan’s views are radical and polarizing – hardly traits one looks for when one is truly interested in democracy.
Romney is looking to buy the election. And it’s not impossible. If popular vote doesn’t matter (see George Bush v Al Gore), all Romney needs to do is buy the Electoral College. And that is very serious threat. That our government has already transitioned to one of corporate sponsorship is a dangerous place to be. As residents, as voters, as Americans, we cannot let this stand. We cannot sit by and assume our government has our interests at heart when we know (there are scientific studies proving it) that wealth and power corrupt – those in power become more selfish and less empathetic to those around them. This is what democracy is supposed to prevent.
So, what do we do? Well, I would start with the elimination of the Electoral College. Get rid of it – what do we need it for? If each and every vote really matters, then why do we allow people’s votes to be discarded? A president should win by the popular vote – not the vote of some small group of people (also not elected by the popular vote) to represent the state. The Electoral College dilutes the process. True democracy does not need a babysitter. It’s quite a paternalistic idea, having someone to make sure we choose the right person. So, get rid of them. Who needs ‘em? Not us. (Romney might, but we don’t).
The next step? Act out. Step up. Dissent is essential to the democratic process. Democracy doesn’t happen in a voting both – it happens in the streets! When the police shut down a peaceful protest – that’s an offense to democracy. When people are pepper sprayed for refusing to stop yelling or stop recording or move – that’s an offense to democracy. And when money is considered free speech – even though it is NOT free – that is an offense to democracy. And it will be our downfall.
That campaign funds are not regulated and corporations – even foreign corporations – can and do donate unhindered to political campaigns in our country should be an outrage to every citizen. Corporations are not people, no matter what the Supreme Court (and Mitt Romney) might say. They cannot be imprisoned. They cannot suffer. They do not worry about paying the mortgage or taking the dog out. They have no interest in sports or art. They cannot love or fight or sex. They have no consciousness. And those who voted them into personhood have money, not democracy, on their mind. It is a dangerous game we’re playing, when politicians and CEO’s are one and the same. Elections are hijacked with money not voter approval.
This is what the Romney/Ryan ticket is counting on. Not that they speak to the people, but that they are willing puppets for their ever-magnanimous corporate masters. Politics as usual.