Perfect Timing

11 April 2018


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Speaker Ryan Retiring from Congress


Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) will not be on the ballot in November. He has decided to retire from Congress and do something else. The timing of his decision is not surprising nor is the decision itself. However, the fact that the Speaker is not interested in serving another term says a great deal about the state of political play in the US. This puts Republican candidates in a difficult position going into the mid-terms, and it offers Democrats yet another advantage.

First, one must remember that Mr. Ryan never really sought the job. His ambition was always the presidency. When John Boehner decided he didn't want the position any longer owing to the rise of the Tea Party faction and simply being long in the tooth, the party was desperate for a leader. Mr. Ryan had this office thrust upon him. He was needed. He can now depart with the knowledge that he did is duty, and no one can fault him for leaving having served.

Second, if he did run again, there is a chance he would lose. A primary challenge from a hard-core Trump supporter would be inconvenient but futile. Mr. Ryan has the standing in the Wisconsin GOP to survive that. Less likely is the November outcome, where he may well be facing Randy Bryce, a union guy and proud steel-worker. In short, he would face the kind of guy who voted for Trump out of desperation but who would back a Democrat if given a reason. Losing his seat despite being Speaker would be profoundly embarrassing.

Third, even if he won re-election, there is no guarantee that he would continue to be Speaker. The Republicans are likely to lose the House given how the current polling looks. There is not much joy in being minority leader after being speaker.

Fourth, he got his long-desired tax bill passed, and that was professionally gratifying. So, his decision makes perfect sense, and all the more so when one considers that he has kids who will be in college in a few years.

As speaker, Mr. Ryan was a prodigious fund-raiser for the party. Wielding the gavel, one can do favors that people will reward with donations (or more cynically, they will pay to play). Knowing that he won't be speaker next January, the incentive to donate is much smaller. Less money for the Republican Party means more trouble holding the House.

In addition, Mr. Ryan was not part of the Trump faction of the party. His departure means that the Establishment wing, the Romney-Wall Street wing, has lost a leader. A faction without a leader soon ceases to be a faction at all. The Trump takeover of the GOP is further deepened. That bodes ill for the Republicans in suburban districts where Mr. Trump is losing popularity. If a candidate wanted to run as a supporter of Mr. Ryan's values, the reasons for running remain, but the enthusiasm gap is going to grow.

His retirement benefits the Democrats for the very reasons that it harms the GOP. The Republicans lose some fund-raising power. The speaker has much more room to disagree publicly with the president, and any disunity benefits the Democrats. The Democrats have a great deal of enthusiasm at the moment, and the Republicans just lost a bit of theirs.

Mr. Ryan is not done as a politician, though. He may well run in 2020 against Mr. Trump, especially if Mr. Trump has faced impeachment. If the Democrats win the White House in 2020, he is well-positioned for 2024. If not, a second Trump term would end to leave the 2024 nomination open anyway.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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