Political arm candy

Representative Paul Ryan [R-WI(1)] can, in many respects, be called "diet Ron Paul", in that economically and fiscally, Paul Ryan wants many of the things Ron Paul was pushing. Key among these is a push toward a more sound fiscal policy, though his plan does not, in my opinion and that of many others, go far enough to stave off the economic disaster that is coming. It would only kick the bucket further down the road.

Paul Ryan is also quite young, being younger than President Obama by a little under 9 years – Paul Ryan was born only in 1970, while President Obama was born in 1961. He would have a bit of appeal toward the younger demographic than Vice President Joe Biden (b. 1942), though Mitt Romney (b. 1947) isn’t much younger than Biden. One should recall that Obama’s age was one of the key factors his campaign wielded against the significantly older Senator John McCain (b. 1936).

But the question must be asked: why was Paul Ryan selected and readily embraced by the Republican Party for the Vice Presidential nomination?

Remember that with respect to only a few, Vice Presidents tend to fade into obscurity. Only fourteen (14) Vice Presidents of forty-seven (47) total ever serving went on to become President:

  • John Adams – elected 1796, served one term
  • Thomas Jefferson – elected 1800, served one term
  • Martin Van Buren – elected 1836, served one term
  • John Tyler – ascended after death of William Henry Harrison, not elected after term
  • Millard Fillmore – ascended after death of Zachary Taylor, not elected after term
  • Andrew Johnson – ascended after assassination of Abraham Lincoln, not elected after term
  • Chester A. Arthur – ascended after assassination of James Garfield, not elected after term
  • Theodore Roosevelt – ascended after death of William McKinley, elected in 1904
  • Calvin Coolidge – ascended after death of Warren Harding, elected in 1924
  • Harry S. Truman – ascended after death of Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1948
  • Lyndon Johnson – ascended after assassination of John Kennedy, elected in 1964
  • Richard Nixon – elected 1968, 1972, resigned 1974
  • Gerald Ford – ascended after resignation of Richard Nixon, not elected after term
  • George H.W. Bush – elected 1988, served one term

As you can see from this list, of the fourteen that have served as President, only one was elected twice: Richard Nixon. But as we famously know, he did not complete his second term, having resigned in 1974. Richard Nixon is also the only former Vice President to not be elected President from Vice President. All others who ascended to President, either on election or Constitutional ascension, either only finished out the term or served only one additional term.

So with the selection of Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate, has Mitt Romney consigned him to obscurity? Well not necessarily. One need look no further than Sarah Palin to see that. But Paul Ryan may now have been consigned to political obscurity, in that after serving as Vice President – presuming he is elected – Paul Ryan may never serve in another elected office again – through history only eight were elected to public office after serving as Vice President1John Calhoun, John Breckinridge, Hannibal Hamlin, Andrew Johnson, Alben Barkley, and Hubert Humphrey served as US Senator. Richard Johnson served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Levi Morton served as Governor of New York..

But while the Vice President is serving, he is politically obscure. The Vice President has almost no power under the Constitution. He is superior to the Secretary of Defense in the military chain of command, but inferior to the President of the United States. He is the presiding officer of the Senate and may cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate if necessary. But in the Executive Branch, he has little political influence and no political power except what the President happens to grant him.

In other words, Paul Ryan has now become little more than Mitt Romney’s political arm candy for the remainder of this election cycle. Mitt Romney has his own agenda that he wants to see brought into fruition. Anyone who believes in any way that he’ll allow Paul Ryan to influence that agenda is sorely mistaken, especially since what Ryan wants and what the Republican Party wants differ in some key ways, and Romney will likely only stick to the party platform.

And anyone who believes things will get better under a Mitt Romney presidency is also sorely mistaken.