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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

In defense of Paul Ryan (no, really)

Paul Ryan is taking heat, from right and left, for his speech last night and his general decision to support Trump's presidency. But Ryan's decision is defensible, in terms of his political and policy goals.

He wants to enact a particular conservative agenda, which he only can do with a Republican in the White House. Ryan may sincerely believe that Trump is not Mussolini or David Duke [or other non-Hitler authoritarian], but Warren Harding with verbal diarrhea--someone who lacks the ability or interest to govern and will turn things over to those around him. So Trump will travel the world and the country talking (sometimes stupidly, perhaps, but never to any real effect), leaving the business of governing to others. Ryan must believe that he will be that other (although it could be Mike Pence), with Trump coming back to sign the bills that Ryan passes. In a sense, Ryan is trying to make himself something like a Prime Minister--the head of government to Trump's figurehead head of state. It is telling that his speech last night spoke less of electing Trump than of establishing a "conservative majority" that could enact the conservative legislative agenda. Trump is necessary for that only in that he is more likely to sign that agenda into law than Hillary Clinton.

Ryan could be wrong about what Trump is and would be as President, of course, and this could blow up in his face. But if he genuinely believes Trump is not dangerous, then this move is the logical extension of the recent trend toward a system that only works if there is party unity between the legislative and executive branches. It no longer matters who is President, only his party affiliation.

Note that Mitch McConnell is making the same calculation in the Senate (with the added bonus that he is more likely to keep his job as Majority Leader if Trump wins, since a Clinton win may flip the Senate), although without taking the same heat. That must be because no one had any illusions that McConnell was anything other than a political hack.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 20, 2016 at 02:50 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


Whoever told that annoying gasbag about this website has a lot to answer for.

Posted by: John | Jul 20, 2016 5:56:22 PM

Shorter version: if Ryan believes, contrary to the vast weight of the evidence, that Trump is not a threat to the stability of the United States, then what he's doing is defensible. Got it.

Posted by: Anon1 | Jul 20, 2016 5:30:07 PM

"if he genuinely believes Trump is not dangerous"

He would be foolish. Trump is not going to simply be a figurehead. His personality and the power of his office make that unlikely. And, both also will make someone like Trump dangerous.

Ryan may be making a defensible gamble that given the support Trump has that as a leader of the party, Ryan will do better to endorse him with some regrets. In that fashion, he would focus on the ends of the party, not one person. The usual thing where you support the platform, not the person.

But, he is playing a dangerous game there too. (1) He might be helping the party lose the Senate. (2) He is promoting the demonization of Hillary Clinton. Ryan is continuing the idea that you got to support Trump, since she (who without the emotional baggage, on positions alone, is someone many Republicans honestly can live with) is so horrible. Long term, this is not sensible path for the good of his party in various respects.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 20, 2016 5:24:58 PM

About 70% of the ballots cast in the most recent Republican presidential primary donnybrook were cast for candidates who are anathema to the Capitol Hill / K Street nexus. North of 40% were cast for a candidate the Republican commentariat does not care for either, and he's the nominee. A satisfactory reason for Ryan (or George Will) to keep their peace would be to contemplate just why it is they had so little influence over their constituents in this matter.

Trump is 'dangerous'? His opponent is Hilligula.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jul 20, 2016 5:04:33 PM

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