If Roy Schmidt’s inept change of parties demonstrated anything, it was just how non-Machiavellian he actually is. By his own admission he’s a regular guy who very much wants to have voters remember him as he was, a conservative but not ideological, pragmatic politician. Sure he switched, but as he reminded voters, “he’s still the same old Roy.”
While in my party switch I made a poor political decision, it is becoming clear the people of Grand Rapids want to move on, and so do I. The people of Grand Rapids can expect to see me at their front door over the next few months to talk about the issues that are important to us here in this City: Jobs, protecting hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety.
Any hope of moving on, however, was crushed Friday, when Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.
At a tactical level, appeals to hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety are savaged by a Ryan-Romney budget that slashes the federal expenditures. Of course, Schmidt can move farther to the right and embrace the anti-poor budget with its slashing of EITC and sharp reductions in Medicaid. And that’s the start of the impact of the Ryan proposal. As Ryan Lizza shows in his Ryan profile in The New Yorker, the federal programs that could build up a city or region — the sort that Schmidt has always championed — these are antithetical to the views of Ryan and his patron.
But the issues are more than tactical. The selection of Ryan functions as a definitional event. The positions that Romney has taken are now explicitly those of the GOP as a whole. They are branded. The only way out for centrists and moderate conservatives is a sort of disavowal (at risk of picking up a RINO label), but of couse, with the media storm, such a disavowal won’t work. At this point, one can even imagine Bing Goei giving thanks that he doesn’t have to face this challenge.
And it’s not just Schmidt. His predicament is one that Republicans of all stripes must face. While they may be known personally as men and women of a certain sensibility, the lurch to the Right by the radical faction now obligates them to defend positions that fly in face of their own commitment. Some, naturally, can eat that sandwich and smile.
Conversely, this is also the opportunity for the Democrats. A Ryan-branded party is an even better target than the know-nothing Tea Party brand of Sarah Palin. Republicans (and conservatives) at all levels now can be addressed as supporting the undoing of the social safety net and the rewarding of the already very wealthy. In a fight over principles, pragmatism loses out.
And already there are already rumblings from the pros that this brand may be a disaster.