Politicians and commentators on the left have been publicly flogging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for daring to talk about poverty in America’s inner cities. The charges have been so vicious and scurrilous (accusing him of using racial “dog-whistles” and language “deliberately crafted to appeal to white racists”) that their only purpose can be to send a message to Ryan and any other Republican who would dare follow his lead: Keep your hands off our issue. Poverty belongs to us. Stay away or we will brand you a racist.(Insert obligatory Jay Smooth video here.)
Ryan’s attackers worry that if Republicans follow his lead, it will expose the failure of the left’s approach to poverty. For decades, Republicans gave Democrats a near-monopoly in the fight against poverty. And like most monopolies shielded from competition, the Democrat-led war on poverty failed. We have spent trillions of dollars on anti-poverty programs, and today the number of Americans living at or near poverty is higher than it was in 1964.Yeah.... Ryan's critics are terrified that his war on poverty, and by that I mean policy proposals that would make it even harder to be poor, is going to win him votes from... um... I guess it would be nobody?
Ryan’s attackers are also worried that if Republicans make helping the poor and vulnerable a priority, Democrats can no longer win elections by waging class warfare and painting the GOP as uncaring champions of the wealthy. They want the Republicans to follow the example of Mitt Romney, who declared in 2012, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. . . . We will hear from the Democrat Party [on] the plight of the poor. . . . But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans.”I cannot recall the last time a Democrat had to "wage class warfare" or "paint the GOP as uncaring about the poor". The GOP hangs that brand on itself. But for somebody as (willfully?) obtuse as Thiessen, perhaps that's a difficult distinction to draw.
Ryan understands that if Republicans abandon the poor to the Democrats, they will hurt the poor — because Democrats have all the wrong answers for the problems of poverty. But they will also hurt themselves. Because no one — in the middle class or any class — wants to support a party that does not care for the most vulnerable among us.Stuff and nonsense on both fronts. First, however flawed anti-poverty efforts of the past have been, the reason Thiessen can hang most of the responsibility for those programs on the Democrats is that the Republican approach to poverty (including Ryan's approach) hinges on cutting benefits for the poor. For example, the Republican Party is in a tizzy, right now, because their food stamp cuts aren't going to be as deep as they had hoped. Maybe in Thiessen's alternate universe, nothing says "We love the poor" like food stamp cuts.
Second, the Republicans have made something of an art form of distinguishing the "deserving poor" (i.e., poor people who, on the whole, vote for Republicans) from the "undeserving poor" (i.e., poor people who, on the whole, tend to vote for Democrats). A smarter man than Thiessen would admit that Ryan's foul-up was in making too explicit that many of those his party deems "undeserving" fall within a particular demographic,
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.If Thiessen wants the Republican Party to keep making statements like that, let's just say, if his thesis about voter concerns is correct he'll do nothing but harm to his party.