- - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The 2016 State of the Union is a picture of historic change.

Standing in front is Barack Obama, the president of the United States.

Seated behind him is Paul Ryan, the youngest speaker of the House since 1869.

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Historically, political scientists have said that “the president proposes and Congress disposes.” The assumption in Washington has been that the center of activism, ideas and policy initiatives would always be the White House.

For a few years after the Contract with America led to the first Republican House in 40 years (and the first re-elected Republican House in 68 years), the center of action and initiative clearly resided with the House Republicans. We reformed welfare, balanced the budget, cut the capital gains tax, reduced regulations, increased competition in the telecommunications industry, improved the Food and Drug Administration, and more.

Then the initiative shifted back toward the White House under Presidents Bush and Obama.

The failure of the stimulus plan to grow the economy, the failure of Obamacare to work, and the president’s disastrous foreign and national security policies have all undermined the Obama program and virtually guaranteed that his policies and executive orders will be reversed by the next Republican president.

As his second term winds down, President Obama will find it increasingly difficult to build a legacy.

Meanwhile, Speaker Ryan is as fresh and new as Mr. Obama is tired and old. Mr. Obama’s ideas represent the end of 80-plus years of left-wing thought combined with a new, anti-religious social radicalism that seeks to undermine the basic beliefs on which America was founded.

As Americans grow increasingly tired of the combined failures and radicalism of Obamaism, they look for positive alternative ideas.

At a time when the Democrats are collapsing at the state and national level, the emerging majority party cannot remain the opposition party.

As Speaker Ryan keeps saying, “Republicans have to be the proposition party and not merely the opposition party.” This is a lesson Mr. Ryan learned from his years working with Jack Kemp.

Kemp, like President Reagan, believed that America needed a positive, solution-oriented conservatism. As a young staffer, Mr. Ryan worked for Kemp and Bill Bennett at Empower America. He also saw firsthand the power of the Contract with America as a positive set of reforms the American people wanted to vote for.

Today, Speaker Ryan sees it as his mission to lead House Republicans in developing the kind of conservative reforms the American people will support and which will lead to a prosperous, safer and more productive America.

Speaker Ryan’s recent cosponsorship (with Sen. Tim Scott) of an AEI-Kemp Foundation conference on meeting the challenge of poverty in America is an example of his effort to break loose from purely negative, opposition party thinking. In precisely the Reagan-Kemp tradition, Mr. Ryan is advocating that Republicans find a better way forward for the poor rather than simply attacking the failures of the welfare state.

Over the next six months, Speaker Ryan and the House Republicans will be developing and announcing a wide series of bold reforms. It will be increasingly clear that it is the Ryan Republicans — not the Obama Democrats — who represent the future.

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