Can Paul Ryan Live Up to the Hype?

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If you listen to Republicans in Washington, Rep. Paul Ryan is the political equivalent of Clark Kent, ready to duck into a phone booth and emerge as the super hero they need to unite the splintered House of Representatives. And now, after weeks of flattery, Ryan is ready to finally take to the skies.

“I am ready and eager to be our speaker,” Ryan said in a letter to Republicans this week. “We can show the country what a commonsense conservative agenda looks like.”

Of course, Superman never needed to have his conditions met before agreeing to save the day.

Technically, neither did Ryan, though he did try. Upon announcing that he would bear the burden of becoming the most powerful Republican in the country, Ryan said that there were a few stipulations standing in the way. One, he wanted support from all three House factions. Two, he wasn’t going to fly all over creation raising funds for the party. Three, he wanted to change the rules so that hardline conservatives couldn’t demand his removal.

Ryan secured the support, and his fellow Republicans are presumably willing to let him work the Speakership position without turning it into a drain on his family.

On the third condition, though, he failed to secure any firm assurances. Freedom Caucus conservatives, still skeptical of Ryan’s superhero status, wanted to maintain some power in case Ryan turned out to be Lex Luthor…or worse, John Boehner 2.0. Even so, the conference’s members voted to support Ryan by a two-thirds majority.

There’s still to be an open House vote on the 29th, but the results are all but academic. Assuming that Ryan doesn’t come down with a case of McCarthy Blunder Disease between now and then, his path to the position is clear.

The question is: Can he live up to the hype?

Ryan was tapped not because he’s a fierce conservative who will run roughshod over the Democratic Party, but because he’s the guy that everyone kinda likes. In a party with increasingly deep fractures, he’s the only one who has a prayer of securing some weak form of unity.

It should probably worry conservatives that Ryan was universally endorsed by the top three Democrats in Washington. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid have all praised the former vice presidential candidate.

Ryan may not be Boehner 2.0, but it’s clear that he’s far more amenable to bipartisan compromise than the rowdy members of the Freedom Caucus. He’s won their support by promising to only bring major bills to the floor if they are supported by the majority of the GOP reps, but he may have a different definition of the word “major” than the hardliners.

In any event, compromise isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a bad thing the way it’s been used by the Republican leadership. If Ryan can outline a real strategy that uses compromise as a tool to push conservatism forward, he’s the right man for the job. If he views compromise like the last guy – fight and fight and then completely surrender at the last minute – then someone better have some kryptonite at the ready.