COMMENTARY | Once he was nominated, the New York Times dubbed Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan a conservative. Perhaps that’s why 4.32 million Yahoo hits can be found for “Paul Ryan” +conservative as opposed to 1.83 million Yahoo hits for “Paul Ryan” + moderate. And many of those links say something to the effect of Paul Ryan being “no moderate.”
But despite the media hype, the evidence suggests something else. Paul Ryan is a lot more moderate than pundits like Rush Limbaugh seem to realize.
5) The Wisconsin Senate Primary. Ryan backed moderate ex-Governor Tommy Thompson against ex-Representative Mark Neumann (supported by the Club for Growth) and businessman Eric Hovde, the tea party choice.
4) Some Democrats support his budget. President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles, a two-time Senate Democrat candidate from North Carolina, endorsed Ryan’s budget. When Bowles ran for office, he ripped Republicans for supporting George W. Bush’s budget.
3) Ryan only has an 80 percent conservative rating from the American Conservative Union. In what pundits dubbed “the tea party Congress,” for 2011, Ryan mustered only an 80 percent conservative voting record, according to the ACU. The tea party just ousted a Florida Congressman (Cliff Stearns) with a 96 percent conservative voting record last year.
4) Paul Ryan has even lower conservative ratings for the National Journal. It isn’t just the ACU that is wary of Ryan’s voting record. According to the National Journal, Ryan has an 83 percent conservative score on social policy, but only a 70 percent conservative economic policy. When it comes to being a conservative on foreign policy, Ryan is only able to show a 57 percent conservative rating, for an overall composite of 68 percent conservative. And the Eagle Forum only gives Ryan a 53 percent conservative score.
Paul Ryan is no Ayn Rand free market purist. According to Bernice Napach, Paul Ryan cites Ayn Rand as his inspiration. But Napach also finds the Ayn Rand Institute leader doesn’t see Ryan as a “Fountainhead” fan. Maybe those low conservative scores have something to do with it.
So why is Paul Ryan incorrectly labeled a conservative? It comes from liberals, desperate to pain him outside the mainstream. It comes from conservatives who heard liberal critics say Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare, and decided he was cool. And the label seems to come from reporters, who haven’t done the requisite research. So if you think Republicans are getting too conservative, Ryan is a good choice for Romney to make.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.