Paul Ryan and the Suicide of the GOP Establishment - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Paul Ryan and the Suicide of the GOP Establishment

Paul Ryan has demands. Meet them — or else.

Congressman Ryan is one of the world’s good guys. But that isn’t a qualification to be Speaker of the House. The point of being Speaker, a Republican Speaker, is — to borrow from the late Jack Kemp — to “be a leader.” And not just a leader in the sense of pulling people together but a leader who can lead in the direction of a conservative agenda. Not to mention being a leader as a Member’s Speaker — not an Imperial Speaker. 

But Ryan has a huge hurdle here.

It is abundantly obvious that the GOP’s Washington Establishment is perilously close to suicide. A complete and utter meltdown.

Over in the Washington Examiner is this headline on a story by Byron York:

Panicked establishment gets ready for war against Trump

Byron writes this:

This weekend was an inflection point in the Republican presidential race — a moment in which some significant part of the GOP establishment came out of denial and realized Donald Trump might well become their party’s nominee.

“The Republican establishment, for the first time, is saying, off the record, this guy can win,” noted Joe Scarborough on MSNBC Monday morning. “I’ve heard that from everybody. I don’t hear anybody saying he can’t win the nomination anymore.”

That doesn’t mean Republicans have made their peace with a Trump victory. On the contrary — some are preparing to do whatever it takes to bring him down. Which could lead to an extraordinary scenario in which GOP stalwarts go to war to destroy their own party’s likely nominee.

Over the weekend I talked to a leading conservative who opposes Trump. I asked what would happen if January comes and Trump is still dominating the race. Would he and other conservatives make their peace with Trump’s candidacy, or would there be massive resistance?

“Massive resistance,” was the answer. “He’s not a conservative.”

Meanwhile at Fox, Chris Wallace interviewed Trump and later confessed

All of us dismissed Trump early on. A summer fling, momentary amusement. As I watch that interview and I heard what he had to say about the country and about trade and about losing and just the sheer force of his personality, I am beginning to believe he could be elected president of the United States. 

Well now.

If ever there were an atmosphere that would make a Ryan Speakership a difficult proposition it is this one. Just to begin, of those Ryan demands the red flag is the condition that House rules be changed so that a group of members can no longer file a motion to “vacate the chair” — a signal that the Speaker has lost the support of his caucus and therefore should depart. Used by Congressman Mark Meadows — the gutsy North Carolina member who prodded John Boehner from the Speaker’s chair — the rule was the thoughtful product of none other than Thomas Jefferson. Notably — and correctly — South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney observed that while he loved Paul Ryan he loved Thomas Jefferson more. To give up an ancient rule that allows Members to keep a firm hand on the Speaker and not the other way around is something no Member of the House should ever forfeit.

Here’s a question. What happens if there is a President Trump and a Speaker Ryan? Will Ryan be the loyal Speaker — as Nancy Pelosi was to President Obama? Pushing the Trump agenda that all these Washington Insiders behind Mr. Ryan detest? Will he sign on to challenges to the power of, to borrow from Senator Ted Cruz, the “Washington Cartel” of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and the media? What happens when President Trump starts building the famous Trump Wall on the southern border? Where will the Speaker who supports “comprehensive immigration” be on board with that?

The real problem here — symbolized by all this turmoil in the House and the rise of Donald Trump — is that the GOP Establishment is in trouble. Big trouble — and now, finally, the message is beginning to penetrate. They have moved from a derisive contempt for Trump to, now, a terror that — OMG!!! — Trump may actually win this thing! So what are these Establishment types doing now that they realize the problem? 

Look no further than the news that emerges from down in South Carolina. Lindsey Graham ally and ex-Rick Perry supporter Katon Dawson, also an ex-South Carolina GOP Chairman, is, according to NBC, “beginning discussions with GOP donors to start raising money for a new super PAC to take on Donald Trump” in South Carolina. Katon Dawson is a substantial figure in South Carolina, and in terms of this discussion “Mr. Establishment” to a “T.” Why the alarm bells for Dawson? Says Dawson: 

“There was a fair amount of denial early on that Donald Trump could win the primary. When you have a 30-point number in South Carolina [Trump is getting more than 30 percent of the state’s vote in current polls], that tells me he can win the primary. You will have to stop Donald Trump.” 

So there you have it. Not only is the GOP Establishment in a panic, in South Carolina they have decided to mobilize rich Establishment donors to try and destroy Trump. One has to wonder — is Mr. Dawson actually trying to help Trump? At this point one would think the Establishment has learned that it is exactly attacks of this nature that only fuel the Trump campaign. Dawson’s efforts will only further solidify the image Trump voters have of the GOP being run buy a handful of clubby Insiders determined — make that obsessed — with maintaining the status quo of what Ronald Reagan used to disdain as a club for “fraternal order” Republicans.

Let’s go back to Byron York’s story — this part:

Over the weekend I talked to a leading conservative who opposes Trump. I asked what would happen if January comes and Trump is still dominating the race. Would he and other conservatives make their peace with Trump’s candidacy, or would there be massive resistance?

“Massive resistance,” was the answer. “He’s not a conservative.” 

Whoever it was that said this to Byron seems not to understand that this describes the view Trump supporters have of a Bush or a Boehner exactly. Let me re-write it this way: “What would happen if the GOP race for 2016 was being dominated by Jeb Bush or some other Establishment type? And what would happen if Speaker Boehner were still in place continuing his cooperation with President Obama? Would you and other conservatives make your peace with Bush’s candidacy, with Boehner as Speaker, or would there be massive resistance?”

It takes no imagination that thus posited the answer of Trump supporters and House conservatives would respond by saying:

“Massive resistance. Neither Bush nor Boehner, nor the GOP Establishment, are conservative.”

And massive resistance is exactly what is underway. As this latest round of polls illustrate yet again, the base of the GOP has had it with the GOP Washington Establishment. They are done. To say the least there is a passionate belief that Establishment Republicans are not only not conservatives but de facto Obama allies. And the GOP Establishment — with a density that is perhaps best symbolized by the party’s elephant symbol — has until now been utterly clueless of the image they have constructed for themselves.

Now they get it. Or perhaps that should be written this way: Now they get it! And what is the response? Is it thoughtful? Do they “reach across the party divide” in the same fashion they constantly brag about being able to “reach across the aisle” to work with Obama and Pelosi? 

No. Hardly. The phrase used is “massive resistance.” And from South Carolina comes word that the move is on to get rich Establishment donors to band together and attack Trump and his supporters.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this. Now suddenly awake to the idea of the threat they face from a furious GOP base — as represented by Donald Trump — they are prepared to make their situation even worse.

Is Paul Ryan part of the answer to the GOP Establishment’s suicidal impulse here? Does he even realize that after all this time in Congress he is now seen by some, in the words of that old saying, as “part of the problem and not part of the solution”?

We will see.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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