What House Republicans can learn from Speaker Ryan
© Greg Nash

For years, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.) was Republican's best-kept secret. Not one to seek the spotlight, the Midwestern congressman stood out for keeping his head down drafting legislation and becoming an expert in the mundane nuances of public policy in a place where big egos and sound bites abound. The secret is out, of course. It first happened when Republican nominee Mitt Romney tapped him to be his running mate back during the 2012 campaign. And now, as the newly elected Speaker of the House, Ryan is not merely the intellectual heavyweight of the party, but the de-facto leader of the Republican Party.


His tendency to favor public policy over politics may help a party that is struggling to appeal to independents, moderates and a large swath of the American electorate that is sitting on the sidelines, disillusioned with our public elected officials. Consequently, Ryan's rise is one of the best things that has happened to the Republican Party in a long time.

He has many characteristics that could help the Party of Lincoln. For starters, Ryan had to be convinced to even take the job. This is consequential because it defies the conventional thinking — wouldn't most politicians want one of the most coveted jobs in politics? In fact, as has been widely reported, one of Ryan's main concerns in taking the job had to do with his desire to spend enough time with his wife and three children. This is a struggle entirely relatable to any working mom or dad.

Secondly, Ryan has shown a willingness to take on issues some Republicans are perfectly happy avoiding. From poverty to entitlement reform to yes, even immigration, Ryan has been willing to expend political capital to lead where others have not. The most notable example includes creating the "Path to Prosperity" blueprint, which helped sound the alarm on the urgent need to reform our broken entitlement system. What's remarkable about these videos is not just Ryan's clarity in describing a wonky subject matter, but his ability to personalize and humanize the problem and the need to act. Too often Republicans fail to remind Americans why they take their principled stands on issues in a way that directly appeals to working-class Americans.

For example, opposing raising the debt ceiling comes from more than just a desire of preserving party purity. The opposition also stems from ensuring that our economy can grow and ultimately create jobs for more and more Americans. A country saddled with a high debt can't do those things.

Taking the extra step to explain public policy in these personal and relatable terms is rarer and rarer these days, when the electorate and the media reward personality and the flair for the dramatic rather than the nuances of how public policy can make a personal difference in the lives of everyday Americans.

Finally, as evidenced in the Opportunity Lives video series "Comeback," Ryan has shown a willingness to simply listen to others to hear how they are working to improve our communities. In this video, Ryan accompanies Jubal Garcia, a local faith leader, as he prays with men struggling with their drug addiction.

There are places and situations in fact where the government can't or should not step in. Based on his governing philosophy, it seems like Ryan understands this in a way few liberal politicians can. Yet Ryan is still only one person in a body of nearly 435.

Nonetheless, Republicans would do well to seize this moment and follow Speaker Ryan's lead in embracing their inner nerd. As Ryan's rise has shown, political success can follow.

Ortega is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.