Thursday, May 12, 2016


Paul Ryan could choose to align himself with the #NeverTrumpers, like his pal Mitt Romney. Or he could fall in line, like most of the Republican Establishment.

Or he could do this third thing he's doing, which is somewhere in between the two and doesn't impress Trump supporters or Trump foes.
Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on Thursday released a statement meant to signal their unity on Thursday following a two-hour meeting on Capitol Hill....

“We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal,” the joint statement said.

It fell short of an endorsement of Trump by Ryan, but the Speaker in a press conference after the meeting said he was "very encouraged" by what he had heard from Trump, who described as a warm and generous person.
I'm not sure how important it is to Trump if Ryan backs him. I don't agree with Matt Bai very often, but in this case I think he has a point::
... Trump has a problem if he somehow becomes the traditional nominee of a unified Republican Party. He can’t win that way.

The demographic math, as you’ve probably heard, is bad and getting worse for Republican candidates to begin with....

If, on the other hand [the fall campaign is] about a renegade reformer against the establishment of both parties in Washington, he might have a chance to change the quadrennial math altogether.

And this is why Trump should welcome and even encourage the resistance of Ryan and the others, no matter what the old-timers tell him. He’s already hijacked the Republican minivan, and he can drive it anywhere he wants. His best shot is to run as close to an independent campaign as he can.
Bai argues that Trump is the nominee, so he's going to get organizational support and cash from the GOP no matter what. So where's the downside if he has enemies (especially ineffectual ones) in the party?

Trump's backers certainly don't want him to capitulate in any way. Becoming the tool of the Establishment is probably what destroyed Ted Cruz's campaign, which was building a bit of momentum for a while there. And that's not Trump's style. He personally enjoys thinking of himself as the alpha dog, and he believes that being the alpha dog is what got him here. So he's going to keep fighting with establishmentarians. (Maybe the recent uptick in Tump's polls is partly Republican voters unifying around him simply because he's the nominee and partly an uptick in approval for him among those voters because he's battling more visibly with Romney, Ryan, and the rest of the resisters in the GOP Establishment.)

There's something almost ... Jeb-like about Ryan's resistance to Trump. He thinks this tweet, posted shortly after his Trump meeting, is a sick burn, but it isn't:

It's toothless because, as an insult, it rolls off Trump's back. Trump's posture is that he doesn't care. He derives a benefit from seeming to be at loggerheads with the Establishment, and he'd derive benefit if the Establishment seemed to capitulate. (Quite a bit of it already has.) The only way he loses is if he seems to be giving in. I don't think he'll do that. (Yes, I've seen it argued that he said the Muslim ban was "just a suggestion" as an act of capitulation to the party, but I strongly suspect he'll reverse himself on that reversal soon, possibly within hours.)

As The New York Times notes, Ryan thinks he's fighting for conservative principles:
Mr. Ryan’s immediate goals, his advisers say, are to advance his agenda and protect the Republican majority in the House. Many of those goals involve policy that is sharply different from Mr. Trump’s brand of hard-edged nationalism.

Mr. Ryan’s desire to overhaul the immigration system, rein in the nation’s entitlement programs, promote vigorous free trade and push other aspects of traditional conservatism have been as welcome to Republican voters this year as carpenter ants at a home inspection.
But as one commenter at Free Republic put it:
Curious what it is Ryan thinks he has done or what positions he has that are conservative. He’s been in DC for 17 years and has nothing to show that would make a case that he is conservative.
This has been the election that's made a lot of people ask: What is conservatism anyway? I think the answer is: Conservatism is whatever kicks the asses, or seems capable of kicking the asses, of angry white voters' enemies. Trump seems like the toughest tough guy right now, and he's the one threatening Muslims and Mexicans and Hillary Clinton, so whatever he stands for is conservatism.

If Ryan seemed to have some sort of power to hurt the enemies of conservatism -- who could include Trump, according to a certain number of conservatives -- he might be strengthening his position for the future. But for now he just looks the weak horse to GOP voters. They don't think he's strong enough to hurt Trump. He'll either seem to them like a capitulator (if he mends fences with Trump) or a powerless holdout. And no, assuming Tump loses, Ryan won't be the 2020 front-runner. The front-runner will be someone (Trump-like or not) who seems capable of inflicting pain. That's not going to be Ryan.


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Dave said...

>the #NeverTrumpers, like his pal Mitt Romney.

Wait, do we actually believe that Mitt Romney isn't going to support Trump? I'm fully expecting to see the two of them sharing the stage in Cleveland. As far as I can tell, each and every conservative #NeverTrump person is just a future Yoostabee.

petrilli said...

Ryan might be thinking that Trump effectively is still a nobody as far as Ryan's world goes. To a powerful speaker busy with house speaker shit to do, Trump is just a loud, temporary candidate. Ryan might figure like everyone else that Trump will lose the general, so just "render unto Little Caesar the things that are Little Caesar's" until Little Caesar goes bye bye in November. How wise an assessment that would be is debatable, given how vulnerable in his district Ryan is to an angry Trump loving white right flank. He'll be especially reamed after Boehner's exit truce has expired and he has to go to Pelosi to get the next budget passed. How Ryan gets along with the orange one at this point doesn't readily effect the bleaker aspects of his approaching speakership Hell.

KenRight said...

Well, neoconservatism, is allowing Muslims in but destroying their countries if they threaten or might threaten Israel. So is neoliberalism. Invade the world, invite the world. Traditional conservatism is restricting the flow sharply at least--and/but staying out of their countries, militarily, and with foreign aid. Kristol versus Buchanan.

Rand Careaga said...

"It fell short of an endorsement of Trump by Ryan, but the Speaker in a press conference after the meeting said he was ‘very encouraged’ by what he had heard from Trump, who described as a warm and generous person.”

Good lord! You can see what’s coming next:

“Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.”

Victor said...

Sen. Cotton will be the GOP's frontrunner.

After all, he did spit in Obama's face with that borderline trasonous letter to Iran's leaders!
And that's some serious conservative bona fides!

If he can fling a huge loogie at Hillary on foreign policy if she wins this year, the race to be the 2020 GOP nominee will be his to lose!