Paul Ryan, who famously suggested the Janesville General Motors plant closed because of Obama administration policies when it actually closed under President Bush, is now going for an even bigger rewrite of history.
He is claiming that his austerity agenda — especially cuts for the rich — remains popular. Indeed, to hear Ryan tell it, those ideas almost prevailed.
In an “ABC News” interview a week after the election, Ryan was asked whether President Obama has a mandate to call for taxing the rich. “I don’t think so,” said Ryan, who argued: “This is a very close election.”
Ryan rejects the notion that his ideas lost. Indeed, he still claims he’s promoting “big” and “popular” ideas.
But Obama also ran on big ideas. And they were a lot more popular.
On the morning before the election, Obama appeared just a few miles up the road from Janesville.
“If we’re serious about the deficit, we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. We’ve also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office,” the Democrat declared.
Obama called, again and again, for raising taxes on the rich. “Because our budget reflects our values, it’s a reflection of our priorities, you know. And as long as I’m president, I’m not going to kick some poor kids off of Head Start to give me a tax cut,” the president said.
Ryan is claiming: “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare — we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues.”
Yes, they did.
In his closing argument, Obama focused on “those budget issues.” One of the president’s biggest applause lines was: “I’m not gonna turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.”
So who got the mandate?
Ryan and Mitt Romney lost every swing state except North Carolina.
Ryan and Romney lost the Electoral College by an overwhelming 332-206 votes.
Ryan and Romney lost the popular vote by more than 3.4 million votes.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won a mandate in a battle of ideas where the lines were clearly drawn.
Despite what Ryan says, Obama won a mandate — a bigger mandate, in fact, than Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976 or Bush in 2000 and 2004.
To say otherwise is to deny what just happened.
Ryan can try if he wants. But he should remember what happened when he tried to peddle a fantasy about the Janesville GM plant.
Ryan lost his home precinct in Janesville — not just as vice presidential candidate but as candidate for re-election to the House.
Ryan lost Janesville, as vice presidential candidate and congressional candidate.
Ryan lost surrounding Rock County, as vice presidential and congressional candidate.
Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin — by such a resounding margin that “Saturday Night Live” mocked the result the weekend after the election.
When the rejection is so glaring that it becomes a punch line, it’s a stretch to talk about a “close election.”
And it’s absurd to suggest your ideas are popular.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org