Michael Gerson writes:
It is the recurring temptation of self-confident, insular elites to assume that the whole country loves what they love, hates what they hate and believes what they believe.
True enough. Gerson neglects to mention that this temptation affects “self-confident, insular elites” of all types. The Paul Ryan gamble is very much one dreamed up and promoted by movement conservative and Republican elites. It is based on the assumption that the election outcome should represent a mandate for significant domestic policy changes. For his part, Gerson shares the belief that a Romney-Ryan victory will “yield a governing mandate.” If we’ve learned one thing in the last few years, it is that significant electoral victories do not yield a mandate to implement one’s preferred agenda. The Democrats governed for two years as if they had one, and they were harshly punished.
Gerson handles Ryan’s terrible voting record by holding it up as proof of Ryan’s “moderate” conservatism, as one might expect he would:
This base pick voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the auto industry bailout and supported George W. Bush’s attempt at comprehensive immigration reform.
Gerson should mention that last part as often as possible. Nothing would more quickly deflate conservative enthusiasm for Ryan than drawing attention to the fact that he was on the Bush administration’s side on one of its most unpopular and wrongheaded domestic initiatives. Ryan’s flawed record on immigration is another example of how he has so often fallen in line behind party leaders at the worst times. If it were more widely known, that record might become an electoral problem for the Republicans in some places. It is a measure of Gerson’s own insularity that he seems to think this part of Ryan’s record is something to praise.
There is some truth to Gerson’s objection to describing Ryan as a “base pick.” If “the base” means rank-and-file voters and activists, the Ryan pick was not primarily designed to please them. It may very well please them, but I think that was a secondary consideration. It was aimed first and foremost at satisfying the “self-confident, insular” movement conservative elites that had been clamoring for Ryan for months.