Noah Kristula-Green pokes fun at the Weekly Standard and its editor, Bill Kristol, for their unabashed promotion of a Paul Ryan presidential run. Fair enough. However, it also should be noted that Kristol and the Standard are not alone. Politico reports that the conservative policy elite is “profoundly dissatisfied with the current field” of GOP candidates and thus pines for a fresh face such as Ryan’s.
I share their dissatisfaction, which is why I also have been urging Ryan to run. (Unfortunately, he didn’t listen to me!) Because of his intelligence, his convictions and his studiousness, I believe that Ryan has a unique and rarified ability to make the case against Obama, while uniting the disparate center-right factions.
A Ryan candidacy, moreover, would have seriously shaken up the race and made the ultimate GOP standard-bearer — even it wasn’t Ryan — a better and stronger nominee. (Remember the Obama-Hillary race in 2008 and how it generated enthusiasm and excitement for the Dems?)
Other pundits and analysts agree with this assessment, but think that it’s premature for Ryan to risk his political career on a difficult presidential run.
Philip Klein, for instance, thinks that Ryan made the right decision. He “still has plenty of years to run for president,” Phil argues. “In fact, even if he waited until 2032, he’d still be younger than Mitt Romney is now.”
This is literally true, of course, because Ryan is just 41 years young. But in fact, a prospective presidential candidate doesn’t really have his entire life to run for the presidency. He has a small and fleeting window of opportunity in which to make his case to the American people.
Indeed, a convergence of the man and the moment happens rarely in politics; and when it does, a politician had better be prepared to act. Otherwise, he’ll quickly be discarded and forgotten. In the digital age especially, the public’s attention span is short; people are fickle and impatient. They want what’s fresh and new, not stale and old.
Certainly, this helps to explain how Barack Obama went from being an obscure and little known state senator in 2004 to becoming the President of the United States in 2008.
So by 2032, unfortunately, Ryan likely will be yesterday’s news. Politically speaking at least, he might be little more than an aging, career politician whose time has passed. The same set of unique public policy issues and historical circumstances which made a Ryan presidential candidacy so compelling in 2012 likely will no longer be in play. America will have moved on; and so, too, will have Ryan.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama understood this dynamic. They understood the nature of American politics in the digital age. That’s why they ran for the presidency when many political “experts” counseled that doing so was a fool’s errand. Clinton and Obama disagreed; and, as a result, they made history. Paul Ryan’s time may have come and gone. I hope not.