Paul Ryan and the rise of ‘Ryanism’

There seems to be no middle ground on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Either you fully subscribe to his views and proposals or you wholly reject them as dangerous for the country.


Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) speaks during a campaign rally at the American Helicopter Museum and Center. (Matt Rourke/AP)

For some, Ryan’s budget plan is so visionary, so comprehensive and so broadly embraceable, that he is deified with the term “Ryanism,” which includes the stamp of conservative approval from American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks, who wrote, “Ryanism is now an official voice of establishment Republicanism.”

Exactly how do Brooks and other conservatives see Ryanism?

“Ryanism” celebrates private entrepreneurship, demands lower taxation, and is willing to take on the hard issues of structural reform to programs, including out-of-control entitlement spending. It seeks to protect the social safety net by limiting it to the truly indigent and not to allow it to become a source of middle-class entitlement (as it has over the last few decades). It does not “end Medicare,” but rather makes changes to the system for those under age 55 so the program is solvent and does not rob our children. It is unashamed of America’s powerful position in the world and recognizes that military spending is—when pursued prudently and not wastefully—a public good and not just another government boondoggle.

That might not be everyone’s take on Ryanism, but win or lose come November, Ryanism is here to stay, according to Brooks, who writes: “For the first time since Ronald Reagan, Americans might just find they have a national political party centered on free enterprise and American greatness.”

But is that because Ryanism is the best conservative plan — or the only one?

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