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A Congressman towards the White House

Paul Ryan, the race to the GOP’s leadership of a young rising star

No doubt, Congressman Ryan is one the most talked about politician of the moment in America – after President Obama of course. But, differently from Obama, he is talked about mostly in positive terms. His approval rate – if someone bothered to poll it – would be surely higher than the President’s one. Until a few months ago he was relatively unknown and to a certain extent, for the mainstream media, he still is.

Paul Ryan is a rising star of the Republican Party, though the Party itself is not always with him. Ryan in fact is determined to persuade colleagues to get serious about eliminating the national debt, even if it means openly broaching overhauls of Medicare and Social Security. So while many Republican colleagues praise Ryan for his doggedness and courage, they privately consider his “Roadmap” a path to electoral disaster. Ryan's proposals have therefore created a bind for GOP leaders – House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Republican, Ohio) has alternately praised Ryan and emphasized that his ideas are not those of the party. Ryan has not helped to make it easy for his leaders. He is a loyal Republican, but he is also perhaps the GOP's leading intellectual in Congress and occasionally seems to forget that he is a politician himself.

Some Republicans, only a few of them politicians, have nevertheless come out in support o of his bold proposals (twelve senators and thirteen members of the House of Representatives have publicly endorsed his Roadmap). Conservatives pundits are more likely to support him. Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, an influential conservative magazine, recently wrote a piece titled, "Think Big: Republicans should embrace Paul Ryan's Road Map."

In the meantime, Paul Ryan will go anywhere and talk to anyone who will listen. He is writing op-eds and appearing on television, and he can often be found speaking to liberal and conservative audiences alike about his "Roadmap for America's Future," a plan he says would fix the problem. He speaks in apocalyptic terms, saying the debt is "completely unsustainable" and warning that "it will crash our economy." He urges fellow politicians, and voters, to stop pretending that this problem will go away on its own. "Political people always tell their candidates to stay away from controversy," said Ryan, 40. "They say, 'Don't propose anything new or bold because the other side will use it against you.' " Unlike most politicians of either party, he doesn't speak generically about reducing spending, but he does acknowledge the very real cuts in popular programs that will be required to bring down the debt.

Congressman Ryan however, does not limit himself to trying to find a solution of the economic long-term problems of the country, but he is also working hard to breath new life in the conservative movement and create a new generation of Republican leaders. Together with Eric Cantor e Kevin McCarthy he founded the Young Guns program, whose objective is to find young politician and talents ready to lead the republican party in the future. In 2007, Fred Barnes, one of the leading voices of the right in America and editor of the Weekly Standard, presented the three young politicians (Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor e Kevin McCarthy) as the future leaders of the party: the three share the principles of fiscal conservativism, an interest in addressing the systemic failures of the welfare society and an ability to connect with young voters.  

The three, inspired by the word of Barnes, have then decided to found a program to discover and support the bright young new generations of Republicans. At the 2008 elections the program supported 24 candidates, four of which were then elected. At the moment there are more than 50 members of the program (official members or ‘on the radar’). The program is successful and growing and if such success is maintained it could progressively bring a complete reform of the Republican party.

Considering the dire situation of the economy and the political scene in America, this is surely cause for optimism if not outright celebration. And lets hope that this movement does not stop at Atlantic and reaches our shores in Europe and even in Italy. The centre right in Italy is not in the same situation as it was in the US in 2008-09 (in opposition and in crisis), but is still in need of new thinking and a new young generation of politicians – bright, hopeful, full of ideas, and inspiring.



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