The Ryan test: Do Republicans want to be martyrs or winners?

Right now House Republicans are providing a lesson to their party, which is being roundly ignored by the Republican presidential primary electorate. The two current front-runners, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, are favored for their complete lack of governing experience. The main qualification to be president, apparently, is a lack of relevant qualifications. This is generally not the way airline pilots, neurosurgeons or speakers of the House (apparently) are selected, but voters can employ whatever criteria they wish in choosing the commander in chief.

Republicans should, however, be under no illusions. They are currently failing the Ryan Test. Trump is the truest RINO on the GOP savanna. He has no background or interest in governing. He has one thing to offer: a talent for outrage. And for many Republicans, this (so far) has been enough.

The movement that stands to lose the most is conservatism. Maybe the GOP’s back to the future is 1964, when Republican primary voters chose the candidate of outrage, Barry Goldwater, who promised “extremism in the defense of liberty.” The anti-Goldwater landslide entrenched the Great Society in American life. A right-wing populist who loses the 2016 election in a landslide would entrench Obamacare and the rest of President Obama’s legacy.

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