And what a relief that is. The Ryan pick suggests we may look back on the Palin selection as an aberration, a colossal error, rather than as a sign of a political class in inevitable decline.
Ryan’s choice will also mean a more substantive debate. President Obama himself has been known to praise Ryan for his seriousness and focus on policy. And while there is a lack of specificity on several points in Ryan’s cost-cutting budget plan, it is far superior to any document the Democratic-led Senate has put forward (hint – they haven’t even passed a budget proposal). The country could now see a more open and honest debate on Medicare financing and general fiscal policy than it has in many years.
Ryan is so anti-Palin that there’s already been a lively debate over his philosophical influences. With Palin, the question was whether she read books. With Ryan, the question is which. And thus his selection opens up a surprising new avenue of attack for the Democrats in a presidential election: the philosophy of über capitalist and advocate of extreme selfishness, Ayn Rand.
In 2005, Ryan told a meeting of the Ayn Rand-promoting Atlas Society that the “reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He’s been known to hand out Ayn Rand’s most famous novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” as Christmas presents (which, given how Rand felt about Christianity, is like wishing David Duke a Happy Hanukkah), and to encourage his congressional interns to read her work as well.