Paul Ryan’s failure

Why pick on Paul Ryan?  Because even though the media has an over-inflated sense of his policy seriousness (he has such a low bar being compared to the typical Republican politician), he really is better than most and a pretty good example of the kind of thoughtful Republican I wish we had more of.  Therefore, his failure is all the more magnified.  Will Saletan:

In his address to the Republican convention on Tuesday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan accused Democrats of inciting ethnic resentment. “Let the other party go on and on with its constant dividing up of people, always playing one group against the other, as if group identity were everything,” Ryan charged. “In America, aren’t we all supposed to see beyond class, see beyond ethnicity? Are all these lines drawn to set us apart and lock us into groups?”

 It was a remarkable sermon, delivered on behalf of the most egregious racist nominated to the presidency by a major party in at least half a century. Ryan spoke every word with his usual earnestness, unencumbered by shame. Looking back at history, we tend to focus on villains, men like Donald Trump who use hatred to gain power. We forget the importance of cowards. [emphases mine] Every Trump needs his Ryan.

I’ve always liked Paul Ryan. He talks about opportunity and empowerment, not scapegoats. He focuses on fiscal responsibility and self-reliance, two of my favorite Republican themes. He strikes me as constructive and sincere. It’s not his fault that the Republican Party, during his tenure as speaker, nominated Trump.

But Trump’s nomination confronted Ryan with a terrible dilemma. As the head of the Republican Party, Ryan had to decide whether to reject Trump and lose the election, or embrace Trump and lose the party’s soul, as well as his own. Ryan made the wrong choice. He decided that the Republican Party would criticize race baiters, but it would also tolerate and support them…

Ryan, unlike Romney, didn’t see racism as a character issue. He treated Trump’s latest slur as a mysterious outburst. It “was out of left field, [to] my mind,” Ryan sputtered in a radio interview on June 3. “It’s reasoning I don’t relate to.” Sometimes, Ryan conceded, Trump “says and does things I don’t agree with.” But Ryan stuck with him, arguing that Trump would sign Republican bills into law…

Ryan, like Romney, offered three arguments about race-baiting. But Ryan’s arguments weren’t for banishing it. They were for tolerating it. First, Ryan said it was unacceptable to divide the GOP…

These three arguments guarantee that the Republican Party, under Ryan, will accept bigots. They might be criticized or chided, but not excluded, even from the top of the national ticket. To exclude them would divide the party. It would disrespect the Trump-friendly voters who now control the Republican nominating process. It would impose absolutist judgments on a party in which the taboo against ethnic and religious slurs has been set aside as just another form of “political correctness.” …

“Everyone is equal,” he said. “Everyone has a place. No one is written off, because there is worth and goodness in every life. … That is the Republican ideal. And if we won’t defend it, who will?”

Indeed, who will? Not Paul Ryan. Not the party of Lincoln. Not anymore.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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