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Paul Ryan's Rapid Rewrite of Election History | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Paul Ryan's Rapid Rewrite of Election History

Paul Ryan, who famously suggested that the General Motors plant in his hometown 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—at least the part that makes tax cuts for the rich the supreme imperative—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 raising taxes on the rich. “I don’t think so,” said Ryan, who argued that, “This is a very close election.”

Ryan rejects the notion that his ideas lost. Indeed, he still claims he's promoting "popular ideas." And he says of the Republican ticket: “It was a well-run campaign. We made this campaign about big ideas and big issues, which is the kind of campaign we wanted to run, so we ran the kind of campaign we wanted to run.”

But Barack Obama also ran on big ideas. On the morning before the election, Obama appeared just a few miles up the road from Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

“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 Democratic president told a crowd that had just heard Bruce Springsteen sing and speak about the need to create a more equitable America. “And by the way, we can afford it. I haven’t talked to Bruce, but I know he can afford it. I can afford it. Mr. Romney can afford it.”

But Obama went further, in that speech in Madison, and in speeches in Columbus and Des Moines and communities across the country. He 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,” said the president.

Ryan is claiming in his post-election interviews that: “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—as did other winning Democrats—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.”

Obama and Vice President Biden ran on big ideas, just as Romney and Ryan did.

Who got the mandate?

Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin and every swing state except North Carolina.

Ryan and Romney lost the Electoral College by an overwhelming 232-206 margin.

Ryan and Romney lost the popular vote by more than 3.4 million votes.

Obama and Biden won a mandate in a battle of ideas where the lines were clearly drawn.

Despite what Paul Ryan says, Obama won a mandate—a bigger mandate, in fact, than Presidents Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976 or Bush in 2000 and 2004.

To say otherwise is to deny what just happened.

Paul Ryan can try if he wants.

But he should remember what happened when he tried to peddle a fantasy about the closing of that Janesville General Motors plant.

Well, Ryan lost his home precinct in Janesville—not just as a vice presidential candidate but as a candidate for reelection to his House seat.

Ryan lost Janesville, as a vice presidential candidate and a congressional candidate.

Ryan lost surrounding Rock County, as a vice presidential and a congressional candidate.

Ryan and Romney lost Wisconsin—by such a resounding margin that Saturday Night Live was mocking the result on the weekend after the election.

When the rejection is so glaring that it becomes a punchline, it’s a stretch to talk about a “close election.”

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And it’s absurd to suggest that your ideas are popular.

Ryan isn’t the only one rewriting the reasons for Obama’s re-election. Check out Ben Adler on “Conservative Explanations for Romney’s Loss.”

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