Paul Nehlen, the vagabond drifter and aspiring Harley spokesman attempting to tackle Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat in Congress, seeks to win by tapping into the same mad-as-hell discontent Old Orangehair has nationally. He’ll fail, then probably jet off to some new gig in Branson.
When Ted Cruz won here in April, voters again demonstrated their incongruity and thoughtfulness at the polls. While ideas don’t seem to matter nationally, that’s mercifully not the case in Wisconsin, and Mr. Nehlen is in trouble if he thinks he’ll be able to take advantage of similar discontent among the Dairy State conservative grassrooters.
The mad-as-hell-throw-em-out crowd doesn’t fit in. Republicans have effectively worked the system to win victory after victory. For every mile the president has marched this country to the left, legislative Republicans and Governor Walker have pushed Wisconsin an equal and opposite distance to the right. It might not feel that way all the time, since passing Right to Work laws and limiting access to abortions enflames the far-left but doesn’t often show up on Suzy Chapstick’s radar.
There’s a system to navigate — you know, laws and the constitution — the same one Democrats completely ignore and grossly manipulate when they’re in power.
The same goes for the US Congress, a bastion of bureaucracy and insiderism that Speaker Ryan shepherds, though if you asked Nehlen and his supporters, they’d have you believe Ryan were some wizard who could shake a stick at the president and unilaterally undo his liberal agenda.
Nehlen laments that Ryan has millions in his campaign coffers, suggesting he’s a paid drone for special interests. This of course ignores his high national profile after running as VP in 2012 and, obviously, becoming Speaker late last year. Or that he’s a veteran of Congress.
Nehlen presents this one-two punch as the case against Ryan: He’s a member of the establishment who doesn’t think for himself, only his check-writers. But this isn’t true; if there’s a man of integrity who can participate in an awful system but not lose himself in the process, it’s Ryan, who makes it home on weekends and, famously, sleeps on a cot in his office.
The flamethrowers rallying behind Nehlen reject this premise and believe the only way to fix “the system” (a phrase that’s probably as meaningless now as “the establishment”) is to burn it to the ground. It’s like giving an unruly kid a book of matches to destroy the whole house because he refuses to clean his bedroom. These enablers include Sarah Palin who drove off the rails at a 90 degree angle in the last few years and Michelle Malkin, the conservative author and writer who’s tapping into discontentment for blog clicks. Breitbart’s machine is getting behind Nehlen too and Ann Coulter might eventually float out of whatever swamp she broods in to offer an endorsement.
As far as real thinking conservatives in Wisconsin go, these kooks aren’t the standard-bearers for the movement, and we’re not going to let them take over the party. At least not in our home state.
A vote for Paul Nehlen is a vote against pragmatic conservatism, the kind that moves the needle and gets things done. The response to eight years of the president’s oppressive progressivism is not some far-right autocrat who rules by fiat and executive order. It’s keeping principled, pragmatic leaders like Speaker Ryan in power to keep the house standing under the weight of all its awfulness.