The following was originally published on August 16, 2012:
I have been scouring the interwebs looking for a reason why Paul Ryan is taken seriously, and not by Republican ideologues, it is obvious why they like this guy. But what about people that I find reasonable and measured, people I tend to find just incorrect but not outlandishly so?
Krugman, whom I really like even though he gave up a while ago the ghost of a serious economist for outlandishness, has this take which I find utterly compelling.
So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.
The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.
Their unwillingness to recast him is now set as there would be a cost to a reevaluation: that we were wrong about him all along. You cannot talk seriously about someone only to recast him as a clown later on without discrediting all your previous work, without casting into doubt your current credibility. Now we are stuck in a trap where not even the punditry can reevaluate this guy now that he is a major player.
There is another take which is less outlandish and possibly more correct: that compared to the other clowns with their sad faces of Muslim extremism and crazy eyes this guy does not at first appear to be a clown. And who has time anymore to research? The voting public sure as shit does not.
Krugman, Paul. (2012, August 13). The conscience of a liberal. New York Times, krugman.blogs.nyt.com