How Libertarians and Conservatives View Paul Ryan
A Republican friend of mine asked recently, “Jack, why aren’t libertarians more excited about Paul Ryan?”
Good question. The answer lies in how these different groups think.
I told him that while libertarians want to be for something, most conservatives want to be for someone.
Throughout this election cycle, many conservatives rallied behind various primary candidates, where Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and others all enjoyed their moment in the sun.
But libertarians did not rally to these candidates. Why?
Because each of them, to varying degrees, have supported some of the most big government programs in recent years—TARP, individual health mandates, Medicare Plan D, No Child Left Behind—you name it.
Many conservatives did not like these aspects of these candidates’ records, but not necessarily enough to abandon them altogether. “Nobody’s perfect” was a constant 2012 Republican refrain.
For libertarians, these candidates’ records automatically disqualified them. No candidate is perfect. But some imperfections are simply too large to wish away.
Paul Ryan is good on entitlement reform. He’s certainly better than 90% of Republicans on this issue.
But then there’s the rest of his record. Here’s a rundown of some of Ryan’s record compliments of the Cato Institute’s David Boaz:
As I say, the test for a fiscal conservative is how he votes on budget-busting bills. And there, Paul Ryan has a real problem. Consider his votes during his 14 years in Congress and particularly during the 8 years of the Bush administration:
FOR the No Child Left Behind Act (2001)
FOR the Iraq war (2002)
FOR the Medicare prescription drug entitlement (2003)
FOR Head Start reauthorization (2007)
FOR Economic Stimulus Act (January 2008)
FOR extending unemployment benefits (2008)
FOR TARP (2008)
FOR GM/Chrysler bailout (2008)
FOR $192 billion anti-recession spending bill (2009)
Despite this record, most conservatives are still excited about Paul Ryan. Most libertarians are not.
Do most conservatives agree with Ryan on these votes? With the arguable exception of Iraq, no. But Ryan is still their guy. Their someone.
Do libertarians agree with Ryan on these votes? No. Therefore, he doesn’t represent something they can get behind.
You may agree or disagree. My purpose here is to answer a friend’s question by explaining how these different parts of the conservative movement think.