Paul Ryan, the American Success Story
Earlier this month, it was announced that Paul Ryan would end his three-year-run as Speaker of the House – and possibly his entire political career – following the midterm elections this November. Since then, the think pieces have flooded the internet, rejoicing that he was on his way out and slamming the door on his dick as he turned around to say goodbye. However, what these takes and thoughts all seem to miss is that Paul Ryan's story is one that's uniquely patriotic. If you – the average American – believed what he believed and had his stature and influence, you'd probably do the exact same things he did. But whether you agree with Ryan's ideology, let's take a second to admire the job he did, and his embodiment of the American ideal.
A Regular Dick
Ryan lives out the aphorism 'party over country'. Usually taken with a negative connotation, these two elements were never separate in Ryan's mind. They were equals. Ryan believes that when his party's ideas and goals are enacted, it's good for the country – which isn't an unreasonable thing to think. After all, shouldn't that be the attitude of every lawmaker? It's better to be a sincere fool like Ryan than a malicious conductor like Mitch McConnell. He isn't a conniving dick whose face you picture when you think of the word 'conniving,' the type to steal a Supreme Court seat or openly admit to obstructionism. He's just a regular dick, one who curves to the right like almost half of those out there – an American symbol indeed.
Even through everything he did, he managed to convince people that he was the good guy, which is in a weird way genuine because that's how he sees himself. It's not quite like Trump, whose halfassed attempts at seeming like everyone's friend are fairly unbelievable. It's more like James Comey, who passionately and unequivocally believes that he is a servant of the light. Comey to this day believes that he conducted himself appropriately and made sound judgments despite making one of the most widely criticized political moves in recent history – the announcement to re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. And that's what Paul Ryan sees when he stares into the mirror at his beautifully blue eyes, a noble man who is fighting the good fight.
On the note of his blue eyes, the vast majority of Ryan's prolonged career can be attributed to his attractiveness. He smiles with teeth better than Martin Heinrich, is more mature than baby-faced Marco Rubio, but not as wizened as Rand Paul. He rose to prominence because of his vice presidential run in 2012 alongside Mitochondria "Mitt" Romney, but stayed in prominence because of his now-legendary workout photos. If he didn't have such nice bone structure, he wouldn't have been an eleventh-hour candidate for the speakership to begin with, sweeping aside milk-toast Kevin McCarthy and sneaky-badger Jason Chaffetz. Ryan takes a lot of words to say nothing like any other politician, but it's his nice-guy appeal that got him branded as a policy 'wonk'. He looks convincingly thoughtful when he furrows his brow, and believably passionate when he narrows his eyes. He used his attractiveness (whether consciously or subconsciously) to breed trust and garner support, in an almost millennial Instagram-esque fashion.
The Policy 'Wank'
Everyone will mock Ryan for his willful ignorance to everything Donald Trump has done – from the "he's just new to this" to the not-seeing-tweets and subsequent joking-about-not-seeing-the-tweets – all apparent examples of his bad leadership, in stark contrast to the silent-but-effective McConnell. Yet Paul Ryan accomplished what many would see as an impossible task – getting a landmark piece of legislation through his crazy fucking chamber of Congress, and having the President sign on. Sure, it was (and still is) one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in American history, but it's the most expansive reform of the nation's tax code in decades. Remodeling the inside of your house takes a lot of effort, even if you're just splashing brown paint everywhere, you still have to get the brushes and the masking tape and actually do the work. Especially if that paint is just runny diarrhea.
His rise and tenure are all the more impressive when you put in context that he doesn't really know anything. He's one of those people who will carefully insert a number into a speech in order to sound smart – like that friend who throws out advanced statistics in a debate about sports without even knowing what the acronyms stand for (seriously baseball, what the fuck is IgRF9%?) – not entirely unlike the skillful use of smart-guy glasses by fellow GOP schmuck Rick Perry.
Ryan has the stature and demeanor of someone who would play a policy wonk on a political thriller but can't actually pull it off in real life, like when you realize that Jim Parsons isn't as technically intelligent as his Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper. He singlehandedly created the idea of the responsible, 'thoughtful' Republican, positioning himself alongside John Kasich in the liberal debate of "well if I *had* to vote for a Republican…". This was a carefully crafted persona, one which perseveres to this day. It's one that we all maintain in our jobs and relationships – that we are to be liked, that we can manage, and that we're competent, even if we're really none of those at all.
Before his meteoric rise, Ryan was just another dumbass who didn't know how to do math – his Social Security plan was deemed to be financially irresponsible by the *Bush* administration. But he didn't previous failures stop him – he became the forefront of the party in the late aughts, posturing as a well-spoken midwestern charmer who quoted Ayn Rand, the perfect antithesis to Bush and his unpopularity.
In the year that followed, he managed has convinced us that one of his worst traits – his love of tax cuts for the wealthy – is somehow considered noble. In any discussion about Ryan, even his critics take the time to point out that he's a man simply guided by a singular goal, and that you can disagree with him on his goal, but that it's just a different worldview. The thing is, his worldview is dogshit. It's the same worldview that led him to charge his own constituents $15 to attend his public meetings in some bizarre pay-per-view strategy, the one that led him to believe that school lunches are provided to students whose parents don't care about them. But since he's branded himself – Paul Ryan the politician – as 'reasonable', his views and positions – Paul Ryan the ideologue – are shifted towards the mainstream.
You might recall that Ryan once tweeted a story of a Pennsylvanian high school secretary whose pay increased $1.50 a week – $78 over a year – which was plenty to cover a Costco membership. He later deleted the Tweet due to the backlash, but that sentiment is a perfect microcosm of the way Ryan thinks. He knows that the pay raise was the result of his tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy (and corporations), but isn't it nice that this middle class woman got a shiny Costco membership out of it? It doesn't even matter that he doesn't know how insurance works conceptually, because he has slides (which for some reason are not optimized for widescreen) and bar graphs. He's that supervisor that likes to have meetings and Gantt charts so he can look and feel accomplished, and show everyone else just how accomplished he is.
His conviction was selective, as he smartly picked battles only where he knew there was room for respectful disagreement. He never forayed into social or cultural issues, rarely tipping his hand as to how he truly thought so he never risked alienating anyone. Because anyone can listen to a man like Paul Ryan and find themselves nodding along to what he says, without having to feel bad about it afterwards. After all, despite his ideology, he's surely a reasonable man.
And now he goes out – not only in his own mind, but the mind of his party – a hero. He doesn't have the gavel stripped from his hands by the eventual Freedom Caucus rebellion that took down John Boehner. He doesn't succumb to the Trumpian pressure that has taken down a dozen of his peers and colleagues. He gets everything he wanted – the policy, the recognition, and the legacy despite never having done that much work, all without sacrificing his youth or his base. It's a truly American story, and he deserves a send-off in exactly that vein.
Paul – take your two first names and fuck off.