This past week, Ryan has hit the media circuit to publicize his new memoir, The Way Forward, in which he puts more distance between himself and the tea party. He has eschewed the phrase “makers and takers” and even rejected his previous analogy of the social safety net as a “hammock” that “lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” Ryan’s repudiation of these phrases will be seen as yet another dismissal of the tea party worldview.
The final straw may have been his description of the government shutdown. In The Way Forward, Ryan calls that political strategy a “suicide mission.” As Sam Stein and Arthur Delaney write in the Huffington Post, Ryan’s account whitewashes his actual role in the shutdown. He was more supportive of it than he admits. But the message is clear: The tea party’s strategy hurt the Republican Party and should not be repeated. This has not gone over well on the right. In Politico Magazine, Scottie Nell Hughes, the news director of the Tea Party News Network, writes, “[W]e of the grassroots GOP are in no mood to hear that our push for defunding Obamacare and using the debt ceiling to force President Obama to curb reckless spending had all the wisdom of a Japanese kamikaze.”
“If Paul Ryan does not have enough tact to forgo insulting the conservatives within his own party,” she added, “then I have serious doubts he has the wisdom and judgment needed to lead the GOP to victory in 2016.”
Ryan’s fall from grace on the right is emblematic of his transition from ideologue to practical policymaker.