Paul Ryan: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Since becoming speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) has presented a compelling vision for the party and has racked up an impressive list of “firsts.” Besides showing enough gall to call Donald Trump's proposal to exclude Muslim immigrants "not conservatism," Ryan has led the fight in determining what conservatism is. He is the first House speaker to sleep in his Washington, D.C., office -- rather than renting a room -- and he became the first speaker in nearly a century to sport a beard.

When former House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation and his runner-up failed to get the votes to replace him, the Republican Party was in shambles. One man brought unity to the fractured party, however, and set a course for the future. That man was Representative Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan’s Vision for the Republican Party

Ryan recently gave a speech outlining the way forward for the Republican Party. He said the GOP’s “number one goal” should be developing “a complete alternative to the left’s agenda.” It is not enough to stand athwart Obama yelling “stop” -- conservatives also need to present a policy platform for the future.

What should define the party that's been long-attacked as being in bed with big business, according to Paul Ryan? A firm stance against crony capitalism and corporate welfare. This populist theme was featured heavily in the new House speaker’s remarks.

“More bureaucracy means less opportunity -- because big government and big business don’t fight each other so much as feed each other,” Ryan declared. “This is how it works: Smart, talented people go into government thinking the only way to fix complicated problems is with complicated laws -- laws that only people like themselves can understand.”

This leads government officials to “make new bureaucracies” and “put up red tape.” Rather than sticking around to enforce these laws, however, the bureaucrats then “go into the private sector and help businesses navigate the very maze they created.” Such practices create a “revolving door,” as big government and big business grow by promoting each other, at the expense of smaller companies and the economy as a whole.

Ryan pointed to the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) as an example. “If the insurance industry does not understand how Obamacare works, why not hire the person who ran it? This works out great for them, but what about the rest of us? What about the people who can’t get ahead because costs are too high... or who don’t create jobs because the laws are so confusing?”

The system Ryan attacked is called “crony capitalism” or “cronyism” because it is the method by which government provides benefits to its cronies. While presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina also have attacked it in the GOP debates, Ryan presented the issue clearly and simply, and brought it to the forefront of the congressional debate.

While Ryan attacked Democrats and progressives as crony capitalists, he also called for a less abrasive approach to politics than some former hosts of “The Apprentice” have shown recently. The House speaker presented a reason why some Republicans are favoring Donald Trump, and how the party should respond to such rhetoric.

“And it is natural, after losing to your opponents for so long, that people start to think, maybe they are on to something,” Ryan explained, in a subtle dig on Trump’s rhetorical style. “Maybe the way to win the debate is to play identity politics, never mind ideas. Maybe what you do is slice and dice the electorate: demonize, polarize.”

“I would just say, yes, it’s possible we could win that way -- but to what end?” Rather than the bravado of a man like Trump, Ryan declared that “we want a confident America -- a purposeful America. We want to know we stand for freedom and show it -- not with bluster or bravado, but with calm, steady action.”

This calm and steady action requires a different leader at the helm, Ryan concluded. Obama cannot provide this kind of leadership -- “we need a new president. It’s just that simple.”