“Now it is entirely possible that neither Donald Trump nor Paul Ryan will present themselves as a candidate for President of the United States. Yet both men represent a diametrically opposed approach as to how to unseat a Democratic President. While Trump is content merely to disparage President Obama (and for that matter any other Republican not named Trump) and provide easy answers to complicated questions, Ryan has a proven record of putting forward viable conservative public policy alternatives and isn’t afraid to tell people the answers to even the simplest of questions aren’t always easy. Next year, Republicans will have to decide if we are the Party of Ryan or the Party of Trump.”
I wrote these words in April 2011 in an article titled, “The Party of Ryan or The Party of Trump.” It took five years but next year has now arrived.
Although neither man would launch a presidential bid in 2012 both men were at the center of President Obama’s ire in April 2011. That very month Obama would publicly express his anger at both Ryan and Trump. He blasted Ryan during a speech on fiscal policy at George Washington University, saying there was “nothing serious or courageous” about his House Budget proposals. A fortnight later, after producing his birth certificate following public pressure by Trump, Obama stated, “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
It is worth noting that Obama’s anger towards Ryan concerned a matter of substance while his anger towards Trump concerned a matter of frivolity. Although Trump concentrated the majority of his energy on Obama birth certificate, it is also worth noting that Trump didn’t think much of Ryan’s budget proposals concerning Medicare, stating that it had “made the Democrats so happy.” Evidently, Trump was paying too much attention sending private investigators to Honolulu to watch Obama publicly blast Ryan.
Five years later, the stakes are much higher with Paul Ryan as House Speaker and Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP standard bearer for the White House. While most Republicans are boarding the Trump Train, Ryan remains a holdout. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper, ”I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.” The Speaker added:
This is the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp. And we don’t always nominate a Lincoln or a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln- or Reagan-esque — that that person advances the principles of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans.
And so, I think what is necessary to make this work, for this to unify, is to actually take our principles and advance them. And that’s what we want to see. Saying we’re unified doesn’t in and of itself unify us, but actually taking the principles that we all believe in, showing that there’s a dedication to those, and running a principled campaign that Republicans can be proud about and that can actually appeal to a majority of Americans — that, to me, is what it takes to unify this party.
For his part, Trump responded, “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.” It was a predictable yet curious retort by Trump. After all, Trump supporters are fond of telling Republicans who won’t support The Donald that they are for Hillary. But by such reasoning, couldn’t it be said by Trump’s refusal to support Ryan’s agenda means he is for the agenda of Nancy Pelosi? After advocating tax cuts for all Americans, Trump now says he will increase taxes on the wealthy. But who can say what his position will be by Tuesday?
Trump subsequently told Chuck Todd he felt “blindsided” by Ryan’s comments. It is difficult to see how Trump could be blindsided unless he hasn’t been paying much attention to Ryan. After all, it was Ryan who lambasted Trump back in March for his failure to publicly rebuke the support of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke:
I will speak up. If a person wants to be the nominee of the party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.
This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they have to understand this.
I hope this is the last time I have to speak out on this race.
But I knew full well it would not be the last time that Ryan would feel the need to speak out where it concerned Trump. While I’m sure there’s no love lost between Ryan and Ted Cruz, any reasonable person must take pause when only hours before becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump mused loudly about Cruz’s father being associated with Lee Harvey Oswald. Paul Ryan is the only person standing between the Republican Party from turning from party built on conservative theory to a party built on conspiracy theory.
As such, the primary challenge against Ryan launched by businessman and Trump supporter Paul Nehlen looms very, very large. Sarah Palin has now publicly backed Nehlen and has vowed that Ryan will be “Cantored.” As significant as Eric Cantor’s primary defeat was in 2014, a Ryan primary loss would be far more significant. Should Ryan be defeated in the primary then the Republican Party will have become The Party of Trump. The Republican Party will cease to be the Party of Lincoln and Reagan.
However, I think Ryan will prevail. If you recall, Wisconsin Republicans were less than impressed with Palin’s efforts on behalf of Trump nor was conservative talk radio in the Badger state impressed with Trump. Wisconsin has been a voice of reason and I don’t believe it will take leave of its senses now.
As it stands now, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump will meet this week. Some say that Trump is now the leader of the Republican Party and holds all the cards, but whether Trump likes it or not he needs Ryan’s support. This will especially be the case if Trump is elected President and Ryan retains the majority in the House.
Look for Paul Ryan and Donald Trump to make a deal. Then look for Trump to break that deal. Republicans will then spend the rest of 2016 deciding whether we are the Party of Ryan or the Party of Trump.