Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The politics of personality

Over the last couple of days, I've noticed several blog and Facebook posts written by my libertarian leaning cohorts critical of Rep. Paul Ryan. They root their criticism of the Minnesota congressman in his support for the TARP bailout of 2008.

It's a legitimate criticism.

You can watch the video of his speech here.

But those who immediately poo-poo Ryan's budget  plan due on his lack of  "true" conservative credentials based on his TARP vote commit a logical fallacy. To say nothing good can ever come from Ryan because he enthusiastically supported bailouts two years ago simply advanced an ad hominem argument.

A did B, which was bad. A wants to do C. Therefore C must be bad.

Ryan doesn't represent me. I can't vote for him. My only concern is whether his budget plan is good or bad. If it's a good plan, I will support it, despite his less than stellar TARP performance.

Truthfully, I've not studied the plan deeply enough to form a firm opinion. I do know this. Ryan's is the only plan I've seen that even attempts to tackle the entitlement problem in a politically viable way.

Sure, the principled part of me says just do away with Social Security, Medicare and all of the other federal entitlements. The fed far overreaches its constitutional authority running such programs.

But as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. And we simply can't just go in an eliminate a program that millions of people depend on.

Is Ryan's plan the best way to go about solving the problem? I'm not sure. But I do know his vote on TARP has absolutely nothing to do with his budget plan.

It just goes to show how deeply personality plays into our politics. We refuse to consider good ideas from those not on our "side", and tow the line when "our" guy starts pushing a real stinker.

Here's an idea. Let's take personalities out of the equation. Let's evaluate policy on its merits. Let's accept or reject an idea based in its potential to advance our principles, not on the person or party advocating it.

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