Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, And The Future Of The Republican Party

Paul Ryan is declining to back Donald Trump for the time being, but other Republicans are making their own choices.

Donald Trump Paul Ryan

In a sign of just how contentious things are likely to become for Republicans over the coming months, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in an interview late yesterday that he was not yet prepared to back Donald Trump for President:

WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary rebuke of his party’s presumed nominee, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican, said Thursday that he was “not ready” to endorse Donald J. Trump for president.

Mr. Ryan’s announcement represented a split among Republicans not seen in at least a half century, and it came only two days after Mr. Trump said he would unify the party after essentially clinching the nomination with his victory in the Indiana primary.

As the chairman of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Ryan has repeatedly said he would support his party’s nominee as Republicans tried to regain the White House and solidify control of Congress.

But the combination of Mr. Trump’s at times outrageous remarks — insulting women, Hispanics and Muslims — and his broad rejection of many core Republican policies proved too toxic a brew for Mr. Ryan as he defended his majority in the House, the reputation of his party and his own viability.

Within an hour, Mr. Trump offered a biting rejoinder, saying in a statement that he was “not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.”

“Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people,” he said. “They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!”

Mr. Ryan, who made his remarks in an interview with CNN, said Republicans want “a standard-bearer that bears our standards.”

“I think conservatives want to know: Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?” he said. “There’s a lot of questions that conservatives, I think, are going to want answers to.”

Mr. Ryan’s ambivalence toward Mr. Trump adds another layer of division in a party torn by the billionaire developer’s ascent, placing him at odds with his fellow Wisconsinite, Reince Priebus, the party chairman, who pronounced Mr. Trump the presumptive nominee and said Republicans should fall in line. Mr. Priebus was not aware Mr. Ryan was going to make the statement, his spokesman, Sean Spicer, told CNN.

Although Mr. Ryan said he had expected the race to run at least a few more weeks, he had spent the last day honing his position, aides said, even as others, like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, voiced unequivocal if not effusive support for Mr. Trump. While Mr. Ryan’s defiance put him in line with a number of other prominent Republicans, Mr. Trump has defied convention throughout the campaign, so the long-term effect was at best uncertain.

In a campaign that has delivered a daily dose of head-shaking moments of awe, Mr. Trump on Thursday continued the trend, in a manner that made some Republicans cringe. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Mr. Trump posted a photo on Twitter of himself digging into a taco bowl — made in the Trump Tower food court, of course — and included in the caption “I love Hispanics.”

A party nominee has never failed to gain the support of a House speaker or majority leader from his party in modern times. In 1896, Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed ran against William McKinley and made it be known he would not serve as vice president, but ended up backing the nominee.

In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater had to wait a bit uncomfortably for the endorsement of Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, but Mr. Dirksen gave it and thus ended the stop-Goldwater movement.

While Mr. Ryan’s remarks caught Republicans off guard, it also gave them essentially a permission slip to go their own way on Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Had Mr. Ryan issued a forceful endorsement, it would have put pressure on fellow House Republicans to follow his lead, a step many have been unwilling to take.

“I’m not there right now,” Mr. Ryan said. “And I hope to, though, and I want to. But I think what is required is that we unify the party, and I think the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.”

Yesterday’s announcement was not the first sign that Ryan was not entirely comfortable with the idea of Donald Trump as the potential leader of the Republican Party, or as party’s nominee as President. As The New York Times noted back in February, the differences between the two men go far beyond a particular political style and include significant policy differences as well as the fact that Ryan is far more interested in pursuing a substantive policy agenda than Trump appears to be based on his rhetoric. Additionally, at various times during the Republican nomination process Ryan has given speeches that were openly critical of Trump to the point where he was eventually forced to emphatically deny that he had any interest in being part of an effort to deny Trump the nomination at a contested convention, something that would have put him in an uncomfortable position in any case considering that Ryan will be presiding over the convention itself. Ryan was also harshly critical of Trump’s plan to exclude Muslim immigration into the United States and his at first apparent refusal to repudiate the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. A common thread through all of Ryan’s comments about Trump, though, lies a seeming recognition on his part of the dangers that Trump’s candidacy present for the Republican Party.

While Ryan was distancing himself from Trump, at least for the time being, other Republicans were making their own choices. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced yesterday,for example, that he would not be attending the Republican National Convention, but also made it clear that he would not be part of any last-minute bid to launch a third-party bid against Trump. On the other side of the debate, former candidates for President such as Rick Perry , who once called Trump a cancer on conservatism, and Rand Paul, who was among Trump’s more vocal critics during th course of the campaign, announced their support for Trump notwithstanding their previous criticism. Sitting Republican politicians such as South Carolina’s Nikki Haley also said she’d support Trump, but took her name out of contention as a potential Vice-Presidential pick. Additionally, top Republican donors such as Sheldon Adelson and Ken Langone have also started getting on board with the idea of a Trump campaign. In other words, Republicans like Ryan who are either rejecting the idea of backing Trump or holding back on their support for now appear to be the exception rather than the rule. As I tended to expect would happen, the Republican Party is rallying behind Trump for better or worse, something it will likely come to regret.

In the end, one suspects that even Speaker Ryan will make his peace with Trump for the time being. At the very least, it would be somewhat uncomfortable for the person who will be presiding over the upcoming Republican National Convention to be openly opposed to the party nominee, and Ryan is aware as anyone else of the importance of presenting a united face to the nation at least at the beginning of the General Election campaign. As time goes on, though, one suspects that Ryan, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has already voiced support for Trump, will pay more attention to the fortunes of the Republican caucus on Capitol Hill than the Presidential race, especially given the fact that most analysts seem to agree that Trump at the top of the ticket increases the danger of the GOP losing control of the Senate after having just obtained the majority in 201 4. Additionally, if Trump’s campaign starts going off the rails in the manner that it did during the primary season, the support we’re seeing now is likely to become far less pronounced as Republicans in the House and Senate seek to preserve their own positions as much as possible in the wake of potential electoral disaster. Such last minute panic, though, is unlikely to help matters, and voters are likely to remember the positive comments we’re hearing today from Republicans who really ought to know better.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Congress, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Bye Bye GOP………. :))

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Paul Ryan is a mendacious MF’er and nothing he says has any meaning one way or the other.
    He wasn’t going to become speaker unless the Tea Baggers gave in to his demands. They didn’t and he became speaker anyway.
    He’s promised a budget and cannot deliver.
    He’s promised an Obamacare alterrnative and has not delivered.
    His economic agenda is a fairy tale.
    His plan to help the poor is to eliminate any aid for them and give tax cuts to his wealthy friends.
    He will get behind Trump…because Paul Ryan’s only concern is Paul Ryan.

  3. Kylopod says:

    A while back Michael Reynolds here described the GOP as the party of “money, bombs, and Jesus.” What’s a little amazing is that Donald Trump has shat on all three of these factions. And it’s only May.

    It’s not supposed to happen this way. One of the functions of the GOP primaries is to weed out heretics. And when a nominee has heresies in their past, like John McCain or Mitt Romney, the primaries serve to lock that candidate into supporting the party’s agenda so that when it comes time to “pivot” to the general election, they have less room to maneuver.

    Now along comes a candidate who loudly and vociferously attacks free trade, mocks the last Republican president’s foreign policy, is all over the map on such issues as abortion and health care, and overall carries a profound aura of unseriousness suggesting he could just casually toss aside anything he says at the next moment’s notice.

    He has offended the priorities of business conservatives, neocons, AND the religious right, and he’s given none of them any reason to believe he has any real commitment to their positions.

    Michael Reynolds was wrong. The factions of the GOP are money, bombs, Jesus, and Adolf.

    So we need to understand that when prominent Republicans balk at supporting Trump, it isn’t necessarily because he’s a dangerous, racist demagogue. It isn’t necessarily that they’re trying to escape the carnage of the electoral debacle they likely are facing. They are genuinely unsure that a President Trump, if it somehow happens, would be helpful in advancing the causes they care about. And when those like Paul Ryan hold out their support, what they are doing is trying to pressure him into moving closer to their agenda. They are still most definitely putting party, not country, first.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    He has offended the priorities of business conservatives, neocons, AND the religious right, and he’s given none of them any reason to believe he has any real commitment to their positions.

    Interesting how so many from all three groups, particularly evangelicals, have supported and voted for this blowhard…

  5. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Ryan is far more interested in pursuing a substantive policy agenda

    Yo’ mama you say?

    Ryan has simply cued up for Veep. If he gets considered for the job, he’ll see Trump as the embodiment on conservative principles.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Kylopod: “They are still most definitely putting party, not country, first.” Well of course they are, that’s their job.

  7. Dave D says:

    Ryan is far more interested in pursuing a substantive policy agenda than Trump appears to be based on his rhetoric.

    Sure like introducing new scoring into the CBO for his magical budgets. Or introducing all those Obamacare replacements. Or cutting federal aid for free school lunches. It is substantive that cutting taxes and slashing aid will magically generate more revenue and he doesn’t need the CBO or the Donald to agree with him.

  8. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party: It’s not always as easy as it might seem to tell where certain people’s priorities lie. For example, in 2008 Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani, a philandering pro-choice Catholic, this when the field included an actual Baptist minister with impeccable pro-life bona fides.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I think Ryan’s setting up for ’20. I can’t see him risking having two failed veep runs on his record. On the other hand, his ego may be overriding common sense. He does seem to see himself as John Galt. Despite never having held a private sector job since fast food as a student.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    Now that the next mayor of London turns out to be Muslim, is The Donald going to hold to his “no furrin Muzzies allowed in the US!” schtick?

    I guess we’re not going to have anyone visiting from Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey…..

    And we’ll not allow any family members visiting either, right? So I guess my best buds grandma can’t visit from Iran, right?

    Has The Donald ever thought of the ramifications of anything before he shoots off his mouth?

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: No, shooting off his mouth has no ramifications for the Donald.

    @gVOR08: You have more faith than I do–I don’t think he even worked fast food as a student.

  12. Kylopod says:

    Need more proof of my point? Just today Lindsay Graham tweeted that he “cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative.”

    Yessiree. The problem with Trump is not that he’s a racist demagogue, it’s that he’s not a reliable conservative.

    Is it any wonder they weren’t able to stop him in the primaries? Their whole world is structured so that they’re never able to object to the things that make Trump truly abhorrent.

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    Doug, your favored branch of the GOP is the people who gave us President GHW Bush’s second term, President Dole, President McCain, and President Romney. And each time, their message to a sizable other branch was “shut up and vote for our guy.”

    Well, the traditional plan — put up someone who will give a good fight, then lose to the Democrat — fell apart this time. Instead of graciously losing to the Democrat, they instead rather ungraciously lost to Trump. And now that other branch — which put their votes behind Trump — are saying “now it’s your turn to shut up and vote for our guy.”

    Your branch set up the whole primary rules system, and Trump won it. Why can’t they just suck it up and go along, like they’ve told so many others to do so many times?

    If the threat is “the Democrats might win,” that’s a pretty empty threat, as it’s been exactly what’s happened when your favored branch has gotten its way.

    Yes, Doug, I know you don’t consider yourself part of the GOP establishment. That’s why I didn’t say “your branch,” but “your favored branch.” Just like I’m not part of the Trump movement (I voted for someone else in the primary, then changed my registration back to Independent, quite possibly like you did), but I have a “favored branch” in this fight.

    The Trumpistas played by the rules, and won. Now the GOP establishment that wrote those rules are mad that they didn’t win.

    I find myself remarkably underwhelmed with sympathy for them, and those who favor them.

  14. Barry says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: “Ryan has simply cued up for Veep. If he gets considered for the job, he’ll see Trump as the embodiment on conservative principles.”

    No, I think that he’s figuring that Trump will lead to a GOPacolypse, and is helping himelf as best he sees fit. He wants to remain as Speaker after this blows up.

    Also, I heard that his district was R+3, which might not be as comfortable as he likes. Having a ‘not Trump’ cushion might be good for him.

  15. Barry says:

    @gVOR08: “He does seem to see himself as John Galt. Despite never having held a private sector job since fast food as a student.”

    IIRC, the most likely people who think that way are male college students – i.e., people who are subsidized, and think highly of themselves, not realizing what the real world is like.

  16. Barry says:

    @Kylopod: “Is it any wonder they weren’t able to stop him in the primaries? Their whole world is structured so that they’re never able to object to the things that make Trump truly abhorrent.”

    That’s because the GOP’s platform is what makes him so nasty. They weren’t able to counter him, because he was merely shouting out loud the dogwhistles.

  17. Barry says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “Doug, your favored branch of the GOP is the people who gave us President GHW Bush’s second term, …”

    GFY, mate. You rightwingers licked Dubya’s shoes all the way until Trump, the new Alpha male, b*tchslapped his brother. You gloried in his wanton destruction and treasonous misrule.

  18. Franklin says:

    @Barry: Geez that sounds a lot like me in college. I apologize for that.

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Barry: GFY right back at you, “mate.” As you quoted, but obviously didn’t understand, I referred to “GHW Bush,” as in “Bush ’41,” or “Bush the Elder.”

    I omitted “Dubya” because he was NOT the chosen one of Doug’s preferred branch.

    I thought that putting in both the middle initials and putting it in chronological order with the other losing candidates would make it clear about whom I was speaking, but obviously I underestimated the arrogant stupidity of the commentariat here (again).

    I will cop to one typo, however. In the third paragraph, I did make one reference to “(Doug’s) branch” instead of “(Doug’s) favored branch.” I regret that error.

  20. stonetools says:

    the fact that Ryan is far more interested in pursuing a substantive policy agenda than Trump appears to be based on his rhetoric.

    Er, not a fact, Doug. Ryan’s Randian agenda of massive tex cuts for rich and big cuts in social spending is just as fantastical as anything Trump proposes-and far less popular, which is why he can’t pass a budget.
    What you have in the Republican Party is a battle between two non-substantive agendas-one based on white nationalism and one on ideological conservatism. Hopefully, neither will win.

  21. steve s says:

    If the threat is “the Democrats might win,” that’s a pretty empty threat, as it’s been exactly what’s happened when your favored branch has gotten its way.

    The hardcore conservative branch can’t even win the nomination, much less the general election.

    Doug, your favored branch of the GOP is the people who gave us President GHW Bush’s second term, President Dole, President McCain, and President Romney.

    And your branch gave us president pat robertson, president pat buchanan, president rick santorum, president ted cruz….

    The only GOP presidents in my lifetime have been RINOS who raised taxes, started the EPA, fiddled with price controls, gave illegals amnesty, expanded Medicare hugely, exploded the deficit…

  22. Kylopod says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I omitted “Dubya” because he was NOT the chosen one of Doug’s preferred branch.

    I don’t know about “Doug’s preferred branch,” but Dubya was definitely part of “the establishment.”

    Half of the Republican governors supported Bush’s nomination in early 1999, and all but one would endorse him by the end of the year…. Along with their endorsements, the governors introduced their key fundraisers and supporters to Bush. Other major Republican contributors also began to back Bush and help solicit still others to make contributions as well…. Bush was also gaining the support of key leaders among the party’s economic and religious wings. By the close of the invisible primary, not only was Bush endorsed by the party’s governors, but he was the recipient of 65% of the endorsements from other party leaders. In contrast, John McCain had the second highest endorsement total, but at a mere 10%.

    It’s true that some of the more moderate Republicans preferred McCain to Bush in the 2000 primaries. But Bush was still far more of an establishment figure within the party. The main right-wing insurgent that year was Alan Keyes.

  23. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Well, the traditional plan — put up someone who will give a good fight, then lose to the Democrat — fell apart this time.

    If we go back to say, 1960, we get a period of time that covers the lifetime of most OTB commentators. During those years, each party has held the White House for the same about of time.

    So what exactly are you whining about? Because your “we alway lose when we do it the traditional way” argument is nonsense, as pretty much all of your arguments are. Considering that there are more Democratic voters than Republicans, the GOP has done pretty well in presidential elections.