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Saturday, August 11, 2012

History and the Ryan Choice

Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  as his running mate.  This choice is historically significant in at least three respects.

1.  Romney is Mormon and Ryan is Catholic, so Romney-Ryan will be the first ticket in history without a Protestant.  Indeed, despite the longtime dominance of WASPs in American society, no white Protestant heads any of the branches of American government.  President Obama is African American.  Vice President Biden and Speaker John Boehner are Catholic.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is Mormon.  No Protestant currently sits on the Supreme Court.  And if one counts the Federal Reserve as a "fourth branch" of sorts, the same holds true:  Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is Jewish.

2.  For the first time since 1932, neither ticket will include a military veteran -- another sign of the growing gap between the military and the rest of society. (Only 21 percent of members of Congress are veterans.)

3.  Ryan was born on January 29, 1970, so he is the first nominee of either party born after the 1960s.  If we define the "baby boom" as consisting of those born between 1946 and 1964 (definitions vary), then he is the first post-boomer nominee.  (Sarah Palin, born 1964, just barely qualifies as a boomer.)