Paul Ryan is the latest in a stream of Republicans to aim for the position of speaker of the House after John Boehner announced his plan to step down last month. The House Freedom Caucus, the far-right group of members with Tea Party ties, was at first reluctant to back Ryan, and is even now catching criticism from conservatives who believe Ryan is not conservative enough to represent far-right values as speaker.
The fact that Ryan is now seen as a “moderate” in the Republican party shows just how far to the right the party has moved.
Ryan has courted the far-right for years. He has spoken at the Values Voter Summit, an event sponsored by the radically anti-gay Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and others. At the 2012 summit, Ryan’s appearance was billed alongside a litany of ultraconservative leaders and even a self-proclaimed “former terrorist” Kamal Saleem, who told summit attendees that Hillary Clinton would ban churches before leaving the State Department. Ryan has also courted the Religious Right at Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference. Religious Right activists were ecstatic after Mitt Romney selected Ryan as his running mate, with Reed praising Ryan for his stellar anti-choice voting record.
Ryan also promotes a far-right policy agenda. He is vehemently anti-choice, going so far as to support forcing pregnant victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term. Ryan even partnered with Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin to introduce a bill that would have given zygotes personhood, effectively criminalizing many forms of birth control.
Furthermore, Ryan has vowed to oppose marriage equality and is a climate change denier. This record has won Ryan the praise of Religious Right activists including Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who noted that Ryan’s voting record fit with “biblical understanding” of the environment.
Ryan has also tried to put a Christian face on Ayn Rand-inspired economics. In the budget plan he unveiled in 2012, much of the spending cuts came from programs for the poor, such as food stamps, housing assistance and employment services, in addition to slashes to Social Security. Ryan made his feelings toward low-income people known when he blamed poverty on the “culture” of “inner city men” and insinuated that kids who receive free lunches at school don’t have caring parents. While Ryan cited his faith for the creation of his budget, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged him to reconsider his policies and Jesuit scholars from Georgetown University wrote in a letter to Ryan that his budget plan “appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
While Tea Party members clamor that Ryan is too moderate, his anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-environmentalist, and draconian economic record shows just how extreme he is.