After taking major hits in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, talk of new leadership is in the air during the possible restructuring of the Republican Party.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a 1992 Miami University graduate, is among the rising stars in the House calling for some serious changes.
“After two straight electoral defeats, it is time for a substantial party shake-up. We don’t need a feather duster; we need a fire hose,” Ryan wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal Nov. 11.
Doug Shumavon, professor of political science, said he remembered Ryan as an engaged and curious student.
“He was always asking provocative questions” Shumavon said. “He wanted-he looked for answers, he tried to find an understanding in whatever we were talking about. He put out the extra effort to do that.”
The 38-year-old congressman from Wisconsin was recently encouraged by several Republican colleagues in the House to challenge Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) for his post as House Minority Leader-though Ryan declined citing the needs of his wife and three children.
“My first priority in life will always be my wife and my three young children. As I reflect upon the strains that this position would place on my young family, I have decided not to enter my name as a candidate for House Minority Leader,” Ryan said in a statement released by his office.
Shumavon said major party restructuring is not unusual after major defeats and he would not be surprised to see pressure on Boehner to step down from his post.
“The Republican party got crushed,” Shumavon said. “Historically, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, when that kind of defeat takes place there’s not a lot of enthusiasm to call (Boehner) back and say, ‘Lead us again into the canyons of hellfire and death. We wanna go! We wanna go!’ It’s just the opposite. It’s time for new blood and time for people to think about things.”
Among those getting axed in the house leadership include Minority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), expected to be replaced by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and House Republican conference chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), both of whom announced their resignation from their leadership positions immediately following the Nov. 4 elections.
As party whip, Blunt served as the second highest ranking Republican in the House after Boehner, with Putnam’s role regarded as the third-highest Republican position in the House.
In his op-ed piece, Ryan gave social issues the backseat and instead focused on what he identified as the foundations of the Republican party-small government and limited spending.
In light of the leadership of President George Bush, who is leaving the country with a $490 billion deficit for 2009, Ryan wrote that the party needs to return to its roots.
“A party built on spending discipline and government reform succumbed to the siren songs of government expansion and earmarked giveaways,” Ryan said. “Republicans squandered the opportunity to limit and reshape the relationship between the federal government and the individual.”
Shumavon echoed Ryan’s comments and said that it is time for Republicans to take some power away from the religious right-a group that has been no less than vital in defining many Republican social principles since the 1994 Republican Revolution.
“They alone are not going to be the heart and soul of the Republican Party,” Shumavon said. “If those people control the Republican Party, the Democrats are golden for another generation.”