Paul Ryan: The Milquetoast Leader Of House Republicans

When it comes to Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offers no empathy or support. Speaker Ryan has regularly come out in opposition to the things the Republican Presidential nominee had said and one, even recently inferring he was sickened by Trump’s conduct. Speaker Ryan has referred to some of Donald Trump’s incendiary comments as the textbook definition of racism,” and even withdrew an invitation for Mr. Trump to come out to Wisconsin and campaign with the Speaker in his own backyard after a leaked video from 2005 showed Donald Trump graphically bragging about sexually assaulting women.

But while 50 or so House and Senate Republicans have declared they will not support, nor will they vote for, Donald Trump for President of the United States, Speaker Ryan still refuses to take a firm stand against him.

And for that, Paul Ryan is a coward.

American politics is a house of cards, sure, and one wrong move can bring the whole thing down, but what Paul Ryan’s failure to rescind his endorsement does is send a message to people that he is spineless in the face of adversity and more concerned with playing politics than he is doing what needs to be done. It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s candidacy has been a thorn in the Republican side and has contributed to the exposure of a growing chasm within in the Republican Party. The voters are fractured. The House is fractured. The Senate is fractured. The pundits are fractured.

The GOP are on the verge of civil war and Donald Trump has played a part in that, so the virtuous thing to do would be to draw a line and choose a side. In his commentary on Trump’s rhetoric, Speaker Paul Ryan has done that, but when it comes to taking that final step and locking arms with the likes of Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Paul Ryan’s values don’t include the women Donald Trump flagrantly offended, but instead are “focused entirely on protecting [Republican] congressional majorities.”

Instead of using his role as a Republican leader to lead opposition against this monster whose bogarted the Republican brand for his own disturbing political game, Paul Ryan has chosen to focus all of his efforts on preserving this Do-Nothing Congress that has been the bane of American politics for the last six years. Instead of choosing to be a voice of reason in a Republican Party on the verge of eating its own tail, he’s chosen to be a yellow-bellied flag-pinned suit intent on preserving the hyper-partisanship that threatens to unravel what’s left of the tapestry holding American democracy in place.

paul ryan donald trump endorsement
Photo by Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Paul Ryan is an enabler.

Why on Earth would Speaker Paul Ryan make this decision? It’s possible that his decision stems from the unfortunate reality that despite Trump’s alt-right fueled campaign being so synonymous with jingoism, sexism, racism, and isolationism, the billionaire-turned-politician is still incredibly popular with conservative voters, despite the noticeable dip in his poll numbers. This was made clear over the weekend, when Paul Ryan withdrew his invitation to campaign with Trump in Wisconsin. The Speaker of the House was met with disdain and hostility from Trump supporters in attendance.

Another reason may be that if Ryan were to withdraw his endorsement of Donald Trump, it would further complicate relationships in the House of Representatives. Even though many figures in the House have withdrawn their endorsement, including Rep. Kay Granger of Texas (the lone woman in the Lone Star State’s “Texas-sized” delegation), there are still so many more who have refused to do so or who flat-out still endorse Trump. During a conference call on Monday, Ryan’s declaration that we would no longer campaign with Trump and instead focus on preserving Republican influence in Congress — so Hillary Clinton wouldn’t take office with Democratic majorities — was met with hostility from hard-line Republicans. They urged their colleagues not to give up on Trump and crucified the Speaker for what they called premature surrender. The hard-liners — which included the likes of Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas’ 1st District — went into a furor for around 45 minutes, before Ryan came back on the line to clarify that he was not withdrawing his endorsement and was acting in the capacity he believed was best for the House of Representatives.

A third reason, and perhaps one that may be more influential than the others, is that Donald Trump has threatened to retaliate against lawmakers who withdraw their endorsements. The defections from Republicans in the House and the Senate have angered Trump, who is known for his inability to tolerate rejection and his impulsive, pointed attitude. Trump offered his take on the defections through his favorite platform:

Mr. Trump, further, has referred to Republicans sequestering themselves from him as “self-righteous hypocrites” and has characterized them as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country.” While to Donald Trump these may be accusations meant to put the Republicans who have bailed on him on blast, these are characterizations that have been lobbied at Republicans for years, and while Trump is throwing these daggers because he’s acting mean-spirited, he’s actually right.

Over the last few incarnations of Congress, it’s been increasingly difficult to view the Republicans as being anything beyond self-righteous hypocrites concerned with themselves over the well-being of everyone they serve. Paul Ryan’s refusal to withdraw his endorsement, his inability, for whatever reason, to do anything but hold the door open for Donald Trump, is a testament to that. Representing your constituents doesn’t mean bending over a desk for a man who has proven that his goal is a dictatorial regime. It means doing right by the people you serve and with this election in mind, doing right by the people you serve means taking a firm stand against a figure you not only believe is an ideological adversary with a forked tongue and malevolent intent, but one who will cause direct harm to the people whose well-being has been entrusted to you.

A virtuous man, one deserving of his position and the trust he has been given by men and women who believe in him, would make this stand and formally withdraw his endorsement, consequences be damned. Sometimes doing the virtuous thing is doing the unpopular thing.

But then again, virtue is a critically endangered species in American politics.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

h/t ThinkProgress

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