The stakes in the presidential election this November are so high, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, said Tuesday that the contest will be a battle over the Enlightenment.
Speaking to about 650 libertarians in Washington at a "Mad Men" themed gala hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ryan suggested that a vote for President Barack Obama is a vote against the ideas that inspired the nation's founders.
"If you take a look at this proverbial choice of two futures in front of us, which we will decide in November, it is basically a fight for, essentially re-litigating the Enlightenment, natural rights, where our rights come from nature ... They're ours automatically. Or this new idea, the progressive theory of government-granted rights," Ryan said during his keynote speech. "That the government now gives us new positive rights. It's an opportunity society versus a welfare state. It's Adam Smith, John Locke versus Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Hegel and all the rest."
Ryan was in the District to address the group shortly before his home state governor, Wisconsin's Scott Walker, survived a recall election. Ryan, who earlier that day hosted an event in North Carolina on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, went on to call Obama's record as president "miserable."
"He can't run on his record. It's miserable," Ryan said. "If he's not going to run on his record because he can't, if he's not going to change his tune, what's left? What is left is to divide this country in order to distract this country. Hope and Change becomes Fear and Anxiety. Tapping those emotions by dividing Americans against each other in hopes that he can create a coalition big enough that it will get 50-plus-one percent."