Paul Ryan, Culture Warrior

Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, as the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie points out, leaves no doubt that if elected Romney will pursue Ryan's agenda of savage cuts to the already threadbare American safety net in order to finance upper-class tax cuts and additional defense spending that even the Pentagon doesn't want. The Ryan choice does not merely reveal, however, Romney's commitment to 19th-century fiscal policy. It also demonstrates Romney's commitment to a 19th-century view of women and gays and lesbians. Not only would Medicare be unlikely to survive a Republican administration, Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be gone as well.

Because Romney had to express pro-choice views in order to secure the governorship of Massachusetts, some pundits are sure to suggest that Ryan pick reflects a focus on fiscal issues but a moderation on cultural issues. But, in fact, there's no reason to believe that Romney's opportunistic support for abortion rights reflects his "real" views, and more importantly what he really believes is beside the point. As a president heading the contemporary Republican Party, he will be committed to rolling back rights that have been crucial to American women for decades, and with at least two pro-Roe justices likely to retire before the end of a first Romney term he will be in a position to make this happen. And a Republican Congress with Romney in the White House is likely to pass a number of bad anti-abortion statutes as well.

Paul Ryan's libertarian economic agenda certainly doesn't extend to cultural issues, where Ryan wants activist state and federal governments to enforce traditional gender hierarchies. As Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast demonstrates, Ryan has compiled a remarkably radical anti-choice record. He has not only supported federal legislation declaring that life begins at conception, but also supported the idea that the 14th Amendment gives equal protection rights to "the unborn," which would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states. The selection of Ryan should make clear that Republicans don't merely want to "return abortion to the states." And Ryan's justifications for his extreme anti-abortion views illustrate a chilling indifference towards women's rights that echoes his indifference to the poor.

As Goldberg argues, to Ryan "a woman’s claim to bodily autonomy or self-determination doesn’t merit even cursory consideration." Ryan's extremist hostility to women's rights extends to gays and lesbians as well. Ryan supported a constitutional amendment that would permanently ban same-sex marriage in every state in the union, and also voted to ban adoptions by same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and against the repeal of the unpopular and unjust ban on gays and lesbians in the military. As this record indicates, Ryan cannot even pretend that this opposition to gay and lesbian rights has anything to do with federalism. He just believes that gays and lesbians do not deserve equal treatment under the law, and supports enshrining this bigotry both in federal statutes and the United States Constitution.

The addition of Ryan to the Republican ticket indicates that the Romney campaign will be class warfare on behalf of the 1 percent. But it also shows that the Republicans will be engaging in the war on women and gays and lesbians as well.

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