Fired Up

Good news for President Obama: His liberal base is now itching for a fight. In the past few months, liberal enthusiasm for reelecting the president has been shockingly low (at least when compared to the atmosphere of 2008). The weak economy and a solid gridlock in Washington had siphoned away much energy among Democrats, and the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling seemed to be the nail in the coffin. Either the Court striking down the law or saving it completely would have reignited liberal enthusiasm, but saving the mandate as a tax led to an awkward and shuffling silence from the Left (a new tax on the middle class is not exactly something Democrats are likely to tout).  This of course was all panning out as Republicans were nearly boiling with excitement for the November election. However, while it publicly seemed that Democrats were down in the dumps, the induced enthusiasm from such developments as Obama’s announcement of support for gay marriage and strict new voter ID laws (most notably in Pennsylvania, a swing state) that will likely affect traditionally Democratic voters (namely the poor) was in fact only dormant. The Democrats were waiting and watching, and all it took to initiate a liberal eruption was a young Wisconsinite with a prominent widow’s peak.

For the past few years, Paul Ryan has been the bane of the left-wing, seen by liberals as the ideological leader of the House Republicans (read: Tea Party) and a draconian fiscal hawk who wants to finish off the middle and lower classes with his social-Darwinist budget. Naturally, sans liberal spin, it is for precisely these reasons that Republicans have become even more enthused for the Romney candidacy; along with Scott Walker, Paul Ryan is the shining hero of the Republican Party (it must be something in the cheese…). Democrats look at Romney-Ryan and they are filled with much anger and a little fear – anger that there is a large portion of America out there that saddled up these two men to potentially lead the country and fear that they might actually win (in contrast to, say, a Santorum-Gingrich ticket). Politically speaking, Paul Ryan is an extremely polarizing figure, drawing love and fury from the Right and Left, respectively, while leaving many in the Center scratching their heads (Ryan is not particularly well-known among those who do not follow politics).

Democrats find much more to dislike in Paul Ryan than just his budget plan. In addition to being a fiscal conservative, he is also a staunch social conservative. Indeed, Ryan holds a one hundred percent pro-life voting record from the National Right to Life Committee and opposes same-sex marriage. His social ideology, heavily influenced by his Catholic faith, has leftist feminist and gay rights activists in a veritable uproar, and that energy will surely carry through to Election Day. Both conservative and liberal activists will be out in force in the weeks leading up to the election, but the electorate has now been so polarized following the Ryan pick that even the rank-and-file members of both parties will likely get involved. People are not just going to go vote; they will call their family, friends, and neighbors and tell them to go vote too. Whichever campaign can set up the strongest get-out-the-vote efforts on the ground in the swing states will have a significant advantage, but the Obama campaign can at least now breathe a small sigh of relief: They know that at least Obama’s base will not just stay home on Election Day.

The man at the bottom of the Republican ticket will surely receive much more attention than is typical for a running mate this election season, though, meaning November will not just be an approval referendum on Obama’s presidency where voters either pick Obama or “someone else”. Frankly, this is somewhat silly; Romney spends most of his time on the campaign trail criticizing the president’s record because he must do that as the challenger to an incumbent. Voters always knew this election would be about a choice, and the stark contrast between the two tickets provides the electorate with a very meaningful choice to make. Prepare yourself America; this is going to be a fiery election indeed.