Elephants, Paul Ryan, and Funny Faces

Before discussing Paul Ryan, I want to mention that today is World Elephant Day. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to check out the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. One of the purposes of this group is to care of orphaned elephants and eventually reintroduce them into the wild. It also has an “Adopt an Elephant Orphan” program, whereby a person can sponsor an orphaned elephant calf. I myself received a certificate of adoption for a calf named Naipoki as a Christmas gift from my parents. I was thrilled and have since taken pride in being a part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Remember, elephants really are a lot like massive, leathery humans. Now, the main point of my article is Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate. Traditionally, a vice presidential candidate is frequently chosen to balance the ticket. John McCain was far from a social liberal but had been pro-choice, against a Federal Marriage Amendment, and called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell the right-wing equivalents of Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. Hence, McCain selected a conservative Christian running mate. Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were both New Englanders and chose Southerners as running mates. While Bill Clinton was a young, homophobic, middle of the road Southern Baptist from Arkansas, and Al Gore was a young, homophobic, middle of the road Southern Baptist from Tennessee, the selection of Gore was still a form of ticket balancing. Clinton had a weakness for women who were not his wife, while Gore looked to be in a stable, monogamous marriage at the time. Romney selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, in my view, mainly to compensate for his economic policy. Romney is in the somewhat strange position of being criticized both for being a filthy rich corporate executive who allegedly mistreated his employees and for signing a law that required people to buy health insurance. Then again, Bain Capital has been the recipient of taxpayer money, so I guess both of these issues come down to Romney favoring too much government involvement in the economy. Make no mistake about it. Mitt Romney’s positions on issues like abortion and gay rights were sometimes less than conservative in the 1990s. However, Romney has backpedalled a lot on these issues since then. He supports allowing gays in the military but favored “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until after it was repealed. He supports gay adoption, but he favors DOMA and wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. He disagrees with the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on gay scout leaders, but he also opposes a federal law making it illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. So if you are bigoted towards gay people, there is plenty to admire about Mitt Romney. And if you are pro-life, you can take comfort in the fact that Romney has reversed his previously liberal position on abortion. With economics on the other hand, it would be hard to blame a fiscal conservative for thinking that Mitt Romney’s presidency would be Obama Administration, Version 2. After all, during his time as governor, Mitt Romney signed a law that requires people to buy health care whether they want it or not. So what has Mitt Romney done about this? Has he backpedalled like he did on abortion and gay rights? Not really. He has actually defended his decision to sign the law, refusing to say that it was a mistake. This prevents him from looking like a flip flopper, but it also puts him in no position to criticize “ObamaCare.” Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is establishing a reputation for being a hardcore fiscal conservative. He has written a book detailing his plans for reforming the budget. Among his proposals are privatizing Medicare and Social Security. He has also, in the past, voiced his admiration for Ayn Rand’s radical free market ideology, though probably not for her Atheism and support for legalization of abortion and drugs. Ryan, in effect, seems designed to attract fiscally conservative voters. He may also help Romney win Wisconsin. While Wisconsin is probably one of the top 10 least racist states and has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, Democratic presidential candidates sometimes win the state by very narrow margins. The presence of a Wisconsin native on the ticket may put the Badger State in Romney’s column. What do I think about Paul Ryan? Well, I should point out that my opinion is not of much consequence, since I am a staunch Obama supporter and am hence not one of the people that Ryan is supposed to appeal to. But to the point, I actually like a lot of Ryan’s fiscal policies. I may not agree with every single one of his proposed budget cuts, but the fact of the matter is that our national debt and deficit must be reduced, at least partly by reducing federal spending. Ryan’s position on national health care is about like mine: against it under Obama and against it under Romney. While taking care of the elderly is essential, replacing government Medicare with a voucher system is something that I think should be explored as a possibility. Interestingly, though, there is at least one fiscal issue where Mitt Romney and I take a conservative position and Ryan takes a liberal one. Ryan, who represents a district where the auto industry is important economically, voted for the auto industry bailout in 2008. I guess it goes to show that there are no fiscal conservatives when it comes to spending money on constituents. The bottom line, though, is that I do not endorse or vote for candidates based primarily on economics. As long as a nation denies equal rights to people based on immutable traits like race or sexual orientation, that nation cannot be truly great or truly free. Furthermore, while issues like health care are complex, and people on both sides can have good arguments, the equality of all people regardless of immutable traits is a cut and dry, black and white moral issue. Therefore, equality for all people regardless of immutable traits is the political issue most important to me and the issue that I vote for candidates based on. I did some research on Paul’s Ryan’s views on gay rights, and my reaction was about like Faith Hill’s in this picture.

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Paul Ryan’s only pro-gay rights stance that I am aware of is that he favors the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He is not only against gay marriage, he is also in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He also opposed an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Ryan is not unusually homophobic for a Republican, and economic issues are his priority, but he is still extremely bigoted. Let’s face it, average for a Republican is still really homophobic. This is actually the first time in U.S. history that both the presidential and vice presidential candidates of a party support an anti-gay marriage amendment. In 2004, Cheney opposed an anti-gay marriage amendment. In 2008, John McCain, as much as he panders to homophobic people, opposed an anti-gay marriage amendment. However, this gay bashing will be a serious turn off for gay voters, Northeastern voters, and voters in the 18-35 age range. I believe that the Romney-Ryan ticket will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this election. I’m as unimpressed with their chances of winning as McKayla Maroney in this photo.

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While the gay bashing turns me off and will probably turn many other people off, I would be remiss if I did not discuss some other problems Romney may have with conservative voters, problems that are not likely to be helped by Ryan’s presence on the ticket. First of all, a big issue has been made about whether or not conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants will vote for a Mormon. While someone like Mike Huckabee might have helped assuaged such people, a Roman Catholic vice presidential candidate is less likely to. Google “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” and you’ll see that a lot of conservative Protestants take a pretty dim view of the Roman Catholic Church. Second, it will be interesting to see how Southern Republicans react to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Romney did quite poorly in primaries in the Deep South, and he has now picked a running mate from a very Northern state. I hope that, if and when Romney loses the election, the Republican Party will reconsider the deadly course it has been on since the 1960s.

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