In the coming days, weeks and months, we will see the entirety of the Democratic Party and its allies hell-bent on ensuring that those who don’t follow the news learn to hate Paul Ryan.
In the national media narrative – perhaps best illustrated by the shorthand of Jay Leno’s monologue, which presumes that the audience has the barest-bone familiarity with national figures – every Republican figure is reduced to one of three things: Old, stupid, or evil.
George H.W. Bush: Old. Dan Quayle: Stupid. Newt Gingrich: Evil. Pat Buchanan: Evil. Bob Dole: Old. George W. Bush: Stupid. Dick Cheney: Old and evil. John McCain: Old. Sarah Palin: Stupid.
Yes, the comics joke about Democrats too (Al Gore is boring, Bill Clinton sleeps around). Sometimes you see the jokes recycled; when Obama and Biden went to Ray’s Hell Burger, one of the late night comics joked, “Obama had his with cheese, and Joe Biden had a happy meal.” I’m 90 percent sure that’s a recycled George H.W. Bush/Dan Quayle joke. A lot of the Bill Clinton philandering jokes got recycled for John Edwards.
Because Paul Ryan isn’t old, we will see an effort to paint him as either stupid or evil. You and I know that painting Paul Ryan as stupid is like trying to paint Bill Clinton as chaste. But we have also witnessed the rapid definition of an unknown Republican figure four years ago, and we know that right now, every Democratic official, commentator, talking head, and more than a few reporters awaken this morning with a new mission in life: define Paul Ryan.
Sometime in the fall, Saturday Night Live will offer some young comedian in a black wig and a creepy smile, boasting, “My favorite Christmas carol is, ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer!’” and we will be told by every political and cultural columnist that it is the most incisive and revealing bit of comedy out of the show in years, ever since “I can see Russia from my house.”
(In time, seven in ten Americans will believe that the comedian’s line was actually uttered by the candidate.)
It will be the lead line of an endless Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins columns. The jokes of the Leno and Letterman monologues will be all about Paul Ryan finding new, inventive ways to inflict pain and death upon old people. (You and I will wonder where all these jokes were when we were debating IPAB, and why “death panels” is incendiary but portraying Ryan as pushing Grandma off a cliff is routine politics.) It will become the overused cliche of dozens of political cartoonists, phoning it in before lunch.
The portrait coming from the Left may take hold, or it may not. But one thing that is clear is that it is predictable. It is predictable because it is not based upon some revealing truth or the genuine character or ideas of Ryan; it is based upon the needs of the Democratic Party at this moment.
Oh, and very few of the jokes will be all that funny, of course, but they’re not really designed to be funny; they’re designed to condition the audience to laugh at certain concepts – i.e., the man who has focused more on preserving and saving an unsustainable entitlement programs than anyone else in Washington is driven by a cruel desire to hurt senior citizens.