In the Greek and later Roman traditions there was an early golden age of philosophical thought. Virtue and virtues specifically was a constant subject of discourse for these ancient thinkers. One school of thought that was fairly prevalent told us that virtue was derived by moderating all things and centering oneself. Recklessness could never be justified for them. Nor could indecisiveness and a fear of choices ever be tolerated. They argued that Courage was derived by evaluating the risk and reward of a situation and then acting upon your decision with a cool unrushed decisiveness. These people were the Stoics, specifically with those with knowledge of and homage to Aristotle. These theories have helped guide me and I always look for them in others. This preface leads us to our subject for today.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has taken a lot of flak in his party recently and from the media purporting to speak with his team’s values in mind. This would seem odd because from roughly the time of the tea party protests until, I would argue, last November he had been reluctantly forced into a role as a leading voice and thinker for the Republican Party. He was the perfect choice; respectful but firm, congenial, “Wisconsin nice,” and maybe most importantly he had a reputation as a policy innovator and a “wonk.” He was in this time period understood to be someone who took no options off the table as he looks for a better and more fiscally responsible way forward.
Something happened to create a tonal shift last autumn however. The event that caused this to happen was the election of a renegade candidate by the name of Donald Trump to the United State Presidency. This brought entirely new elements into an active role in traditional American conservatism. It also seemingly out of nowhere brought on a burst of insanity that has led to the paralysis of the Republican caucuses. For a party that claims to believe in the constitution and the separation of powers, they have done quite a bit of sitting around and waiting for the President to tell them what to do. God forbid that congress act because our God-Emperor has yet to speak about his preferences, at least according to many “conservatives” these days.
Stay with me for just a few more minutes because this is where we start to put all these concepts back together. You see I can think of one politician at least who hasn’t lost his convictions and is not kissing up to Trump either. That is the previously mentioned Paul Ryan. Over his duration of the speakership he has been developing and beginning to push “A Better Way” agenda. This is a comprehensive and in some aspects uncomfortable revaluation of how to use policy to conservative ends. It is now on the verge of abandonment, but we should do our utmost to save it on behalf of both the content and the manner in which it was conserved.
This was not a reckless single bill idea. This is a true set of signature legislation. It combines the cold capitalism of Rand that influenced his early years and melds it with compassion and sincere desire to help that has only evolved since being forced to directly confront the issues of poverty in America. Like the courage I spoke of in the beginning of this post it takes a decisive commitment to develop and implement something like this. Even more so, to have to fight your own party to save it when it should be on the verge of implementation instead. We need to see similar courage from other Republicans in the house and especially in the senate. They could choose, and unfortunately probably will, to oppose this because Trump opposes large strokes of it and Democrats on the very principle of it. A little forward thinking could show them what a momentous occasion for our country this is and what an opportunity that they could have to truly reshape our country for the better.
Bravery is the sober realization that there is a hard road ahead and then taking those first steps anyways. Paul Ryan has blazed a trail for us, and now it is time for other Republican legislators to summon their will. It is time for them to quell their tempestuous passions. It is time we all recognize that there is a real “Better Way” out there.