Paul Ryan’s return to Wisconsin on the day after his selection as Mitt Romney’s choice for the Republican vice presidential nomination was billed as a "homecoming."
But Ryan did not actually go home to Janesville, the blue-collar town where he was born and raised. Janesville is a Democratic city that backed the ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008, and that might well do so again in 2012. Indeed, the headline on a news story from Janesville published Sunday read: "Residents and Officials Say Ryan Brings Welcome Attention Even if He Won’t Get Their Vote."
Instead, Ryan and Romney appeared in Waukesha County, the state’s Republican stronghold.
In Waukesha, Ryan announced: ”I am a Wisconsinite through and through."
"My veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little Spotted Cow, Leines and Miller," he declared, mentioning three of the state’s many beers. "I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers. I like to hunt here, fish here, snowmobile here, and I even think ice fishing is interesting.”
What Ryan did not mention was the political philosophy that underpins what is universally recognized as “the Wisconsin Idea.” The vice presidential candidates’s thinking was shaped by Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand and Austrian economists, not by the progressive political ideals of the first Wisconsinite to lead a national political ticket into serious competition for the White House: governor, senator and 1924 presidential candidate Robert M. La Follette.
In fact, the House Budget Committee chairman is expressly at odds with his home state’s progressive tradition.
In 2010, Ryan told conservative commentator Glenn Beck: "What I’ve been trying to do is indict the entire vision of progressivism because I see progressivism as the source, the intellectual source for the big government problems that are plaguing us today. And so to me it’s really important to flush progressives out into the field of open debate—so people can actually see what this ideology means and where it’s going to lead us and how it attacks the American idea."
"I love you!" gushed Beck.
Beck referred to progressivism as "a cancer."
"Exactly," replied Ryan. "Look, I come from—I’m calling you from Janesville, Wisconsin, where I’m born and raised, where we raise our family. [It’s] thirty-five miles from Madison. I grew up hearing about this stuff. This stuff came from these German intellectuals to Madison–University of Wisconsin and sort of out there from the beginning of the last century. So this is something we are familiar with where I come from. It never sat right with me. And as I grew up, I learned more about the founders and reading the Austrians and others that this is really a cancer because it basically takes the notion that our rights come from God and nature and turns it on its head and says, No, no, no, no, no, they come from government, and we here in government are here to give you your rights and therefore ration, redistribute and regulate your rights. It’s a complete affront of the whole idea of this country and that is to me what we as conservatives, or classical liberals if you want to get technical."