Ryan's importance is enhanced by his identity as a movement conservative. Reagan was the first movement leader in modern times to achieve the presidency. Like him, Ryan represents a new kind of conservatism for his time.
Reagan rejected the moderate accommodationism represented by Gerald Ford, the sitting president Reagan nearly overthrew in 1976. Ryan represents a new constitutional conservatism of limited government and individual opportunity that carried Republicans to victory in 2010, not just as a rejection of Obama's big-government hyper-liberalism but also as a significant departure from the philosophically undisciplined, idiosyncratically free-spending "compassionate conservatism" of Obama's Republican predecessor.
Ryan's role is to make the case for a serious approach to structural problems — a hardheaded, sober-hearted conservatism that puts to shame a reactionary liberalism that, with Greece in our future, offers handouts, bromides and a 4.6 percent increase in tax rates.
If Ryan does it well, win or lose in 2012, he becomes a dominant national force. Mild and moderate Mitt Romney will have shaped the conservative future for years to come.
The cunning of history. Or if you prefer, sheer capriciousness.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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