“Paul Ryan is not going to be the Speaker of the House in January.”
That was Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity’s election night bold prediction, making it crystal clear his position on the future of House Speaker Paul Ryan. He is calling for restructuring. Not for personal reasons, but because there are serious concerns that Ryan may be no friend of President-elect Donald Trump’s core agenda on stopping bad trade deals and illegal immigration in January.
The fact is, President-elect Donald Trump does not owe his Rust Belt sweep of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to Paul Ryan, Karl Rove’s contrary election night analysis notwithstanding.
Trump owes his win to the coalition of conservative, independent, Republican and critically, traditional union Democrat households who voted for him and supported him when nobody else would. That is who Trump is answerable to. Working Americans. The people who fought in the trenches to get him elected, and no one else.
It was Trump who pushed to campaign in the Rust Belt on the working-class issues of trade and illegal immigration. He won support for producing things in America and creating jobs here while D.C.-based intellectual elites were busily pushing candidates that promoted open trade and borders and openly mocked his populist appeal to voters on these issues. He even insisted on appealing to black Americans with an appeal to rebuild our inner cities and giving those who live there a greater stake in those communities via ownership, when conventional wisdom states no Republican should bother trying.
It was Trump’s vision and no one else’s that put together what will soon be the 306-vote electoral college majority that won the day, with states in the Rust Belt that have voted Democrat the past two election cycles, which would have not been achieved otherwise. Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire, traditionally thought by Republicans to be better bets in a general election, all voted for Hillary Clinton.
Ryan, on the other hand has hinted the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact could still be passed in the lame duck session of Congress if the votes are there. He has also supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past. These two issues strike at the heart of Trump’s agenda.
If Trump had come off those issues in the general election, as so many in Washington, D.C. had “sagely” advised, Trump, who won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by fairly narrow margins, might well have lost them — and the election.
Ryan promised in a press conference on Nov. 9 that Trump would be leading a “unified Republican government.” But here, Ryan misreads Tuesday’s election result.
Trump’s ascendancy is neither a Republican victory nor a Democrat defeat. It is a victory for all Americans who want to stop shipping their jobs to China or training their foreign H1-B replacements. Who do not want to open the floodgates to Syrian refugees. And who expect the wall to be built.
Will Ryan now reliably deliver Trump’s agenda in Congress, specifically, on trade, illegal immigration and restricting immigration from regions running rampant with terrorism? Can he deliver what Trump needs politically on infrastructure? Will Ryan help build the wall, or what? It’s a real question. Ryan has never been a big Trump supporter.
Nor has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who apparently now refuses to say whether he will support the Trump administration initiative to build a wall on the nation’s southern border. And who appears to be granting Senate Democrats back the judicial filibuster for free on Supreme Court nominees even though Democrats abolished it when they were in the majority for lower court nominations. Why would he do that? Does he want squishy, liberal justices or what?
If Ryan and McConnell for that matter will not deliver the Trump agenda, then Hannity has a legitimate point to make about their continued tenure as Congressional leaders. The last thing Trump and the country need in January is a Congress headed by hostile leadership whose only role will be to stymie the marquee items of the Trump agenda he and Republicans need to be successful in the future. Circling the wagons around Ryan and McConnell will not help Trump.
Politically, Trump has a real need to deliver on his promises, particularly to Trump union Democrats and independents in the Rust Belt, without whom Republicans cannot hope to keep the White House in 2020. If Ryan and McConnell get in the way of that, Republicans could pay for it dearly in the 2018 midterms, too. And then there really would be a new Speaker. Instead, Trump can build solid majorities in the coming years with a Congress that will get things done.
The issue comes down to whether Trump can really trust Ryan.
For all the talk about there being no recriminations and this being a time for healing, the fact is that Ryan, and in extension his former 2012 running mate Mitt Romney and their network did absolutely everything they could do to sabotage the Trump campaign at critical moments.
It was widely rumored that Ryan top advisor Dan Senor was the source of the NBC Billy Bush tape that leaked right before the second debate. Senor emphatically denied it, but there it was, a direct charge of Ryan’s complicity in one of the most pivotal attacks against Trump. But even if Ryan wasn’t responsible for releasing the Billy Bush tape, his and Mitt Romney’s response to it told Trump everything he needs know.
Immediately, Mormon leaders in Utah were denouncing the tape, and Romney staff was directly talking up Evan McMullin as an alternative to Trump in Idaho, LDS sources in the Republican Party confirm, all in an effort to either hand the race to Hillary Clinton or to throw the race into the House of Representatives. All to deny Trump the White House.
Key members of Congress were calling on Donald Trump to withdraw from the race, which Ryan did not publicly discourage.
When Trump clobbered Hillary Clinton in the second debate and by all accounts righted himself politically, what did Ryan do? He pushed his ill-conceived conference call to House Republicans all but suspending Congressional campaigning on behalf of Trump. Politically, this was a knife aimed directly at taking down Trump and saving his own skins. It was used by the mainstream media to hurt Trump.
When things got tough for Trump, Ryan did not defend the nominee — and nearly ceded the entire electoral battlefield because he had no faith in Trump or the value of his message to voters in battleground states.
That means #NeverTrump — the D.C.-based network of Republican establishment leaders, consultants and special interests that took the risk Trump might win to sabotage Trump’s White House bid — have no place in the new order. It truly is time to drain the GOP swamp. And #NeverTrump is the perfect place to start.
In 1517, Niccolo Machiavelli cautioned in Discourses on Livy, “The government of a state which is free and has been newly formed, will evoke hostile factions… He then who sets out to govern the masses… and does not secure himself against those who are hostile to the new order, is setting up a form of government which will be short-lived.”
In that sense, Trump — and the country — might be better served with new leadership in Congress that is not hostile to his agenda. Not out of spite, but survival.
If that means on the House side for example that leadership elections are not held until after the lame duck is adjourned, as U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) is pushing for, so the American people can be assured no bad deals and other boondoggles go through, or that Ryan might not be Speaker, so be it.
In the least, before Ryan is anointed as Speaker again, he should have an opportunity to be held accountable for whatever happens in the lame duck session of Congress this year now that the election is over. That means no Trans-Pacific Partnership. No emptying federal prisons. No more bad deals with President Barack Obama. And only do a short-term spending bill so Trump and the new House and Senate majorities can assert their prerogatives immediately in January.
There need to be public assurances that Trump’s agenda in Congress is secure.
It is not up to Sean Hannity to prove he is right about Ryan, it is up to Ryan to prove to his members he would be a trustworthy, reliable steward of Trump’s agenda in Congress, particularly on trade and immigration.
Build the wall.
That is not asking too much, but America can ill afford to have a faithless Speaker pushing yet more globalism during a Trump administration. If Ryan truly does not want to enact Trump’s agenda, if he doesn’t believe in it or its political value, then it might be time that he stand aside.