Several websites are pulling a Ryan quote that he gave during an interview with hometown WISC-TV on Monday and describing it as dismissive of urban minorities:”I think the surprise was some of the turnout, especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,” said Ryan, who sat down with WISC-TV reporter Jessica Arp on Monday for the first time following the election.
A lot of people are casting this comment as dismissive of the president and of urban voters in general. For instance, the lede at the Huffington Post reads:
Former GOP vice-presidential nominee and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is blaming President Barack Obama’s win on his turnout in cities.
And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling “urbans.”
In essence, some are perceiving the (mostly accurate) assessment as a swipe against minorities, a dismissal of urban democratic strongholds and as something closer to petulance than reconciliation.
The reality is a lot more interesting.
Ryan was observing something he’d seen the whole time, and may have seen coming from the beginning.
Republicans don’t win in big cities anymore. Ryan merely realised that the fault lies more with a GOP that hasn’t invested in cities than the people who — as a result — decline to vote for them.
Ryan isn’t saying that there’s something wrong with voters in cities who don’t vote Republican. He’s saying there’s something wrong with a party that doesn’t bother to pursue them.
We know this, because according to earlier reports, the VP nominee had ambitious plans upon joining the Romney campaign to carry out a major city tour in an effort to win over urban voters, but Romney advisors wouldn’t let him.
It’s clear that Ryan — comparatively young, probably more future-oriented than some of his colleagues — sees the writing on the wall. If Republicans give up on major population centres, they give up on a huge swathe of people who could be sympathetic if a Republican bothered to chat with them. From a blog post at Next American City:
Ryan sought (to) connect with city dwellers, conventionally thought of as in the bag for Democrats, in order to lay out “the Republican vision for individual empowerment.” […] Problem was, Romney advisers didn’t like the idea, and except for one speech in Cleveland didn’t let Ryan follow through on his proposed urban campaigning.
If anything, Ryan was looking forward, working from the knowledge that while he won’t win many votes, he’d need to at least spend some time on the ground in order to make inroads with the urban crowd.
Just because Ryan observed the accurate fact that high urban turnout helped win the election for Obama doesn’t mean he’s dismissive of the people who ensured he didn’t win.
If anything, his plans earlier in the campaign convey just the opposite. He wants to win them over to the GOP, and now that he’s free from the Romney campaign, he could go ahead and do just that.
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