Paul Ryan delivered a Thursday night speech at the Reagan Library calling on the Republican Party to move on from President Trump. The speech shows, far better than any outside attack could, why the GOP actually needs to move on from Paul Ryan.
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Ryan’s speech at the Ronald Reagan Library came two years after he retired from the House after three disappointing years as Speaker of the House. As Speaker, Paul Ryan pledged to support the Republican nominee, then attempted to renege on that pledge when the nominee ended up being Donald Trump (Ryan even told Republicans he thought Trump was in the pay of Putin).
After Trump’s upset victory, Ryan did his best to only pass whatever a Mitt Romney president would have passed, and then mercifully quit after the 2018 election to cash in as a corporate board member. In 2020, the first House election with Paul Ryan safely gone from the picture, Republicans made surprise gains in the House as the party shifted more in President Trump’s direction.
Now, Paul Ryan has suddenly emerged to try and bolster the Liz Cheney faction of the Republican Party.
Some of what Ryan said on Thursday is true, but all of it was a mendacious ploy to bring back the failing Republican Party of old.
Ryan’s speech opened by remembering his days working with Jack Kemp.
Being around Jack was a daily immersion in the bighearted spirit of Reagan conservatism. Its whole creed of free enterprise, of endless opportunity, of limited government… respect for the rule of law.
To the average Republican of today, the name “Jack Kemp” only evokes Bob Dole’s running mate in his failed 1996 campaign. But while Ryan praises Kemp for his “respect for the rule of law,” Kemp was among the foremost open borders Republicans of his day (and thus a worthy tutor to Paul Ryan). He opposed making any cuts at all to immigration, and was a major public opponent of California’s Prop 187, the highly-popular measure to deny state services to illegal immigrants. In 1995, Kemp denounced his fellow party members for opposing affirmative action, bizarrely saying that treating all people equally “separates people by race and gender.”
Ryan then went on to brag about his accomplishments as Speaker of the House. First on his list: “Tough measures” against Iran and Russia, two countries America has little reason to be in conflict with today. He boasted without any details of “cutting regulations” and improving the VA, and then went on to brag about how many criminals Congress released from prison. With America’s murder rate up by 25 percent or more in 2020, Americans may take a different attitude toward Ryan’s ballyhooed “criminal justice reform.”
Then, having taken credit for the mutilated achievements of the united GOP governing majority from 2017-18, Ryan proceeded to trash the president who delivered that majority, while also fueling the January 6 blood libel against the MAGA movement:
Even for our good showing in the House, 2020 left Republicans powerless in Washington. Even worse, it was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end. So, once again we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads. Here’s the reality that we have to face: If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere. Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle.”
The “second-rate imitations” Ryan is referring to are obviously President Trump’s ideological followers like Reps. Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz. Naturally, Ryan’s speech gets reality exactly backwards. “Independence and mettle” are the reasons that Republicans embraced Donald Trump in the first place.
Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, and Liz Cheney have all revealed the fundamental nature of the pre-Trump GOP establishment. They weren’t just enslaved to the foreign war lobby and the corporate open borders lobby. Cheney and Romney’s votes supporting impeachment, and Ryan’s implicit endorsement of the same in his speech, reveal they are mentally subservient to the moral imperialism of the woke left. That is why they have been so thoroughly rejected by the Republican base, in favor of new leaders who don’t hide behind comforting lies.
We win majorities by directing our loyalty and respect to voters, and by staying faithful to the conservative principles that unite us. This was true even when the person leading our movement was as impressive, polished, and agreeable as they come.”
What Ryan said is true, but once again it brings no credit to him. The path for Republicans to win is by delivering pro-American results for voters.
If not for Ryan’s passive obstructionism as House speaker, Republicans would have kept their House majority in 2018 and President Trump would have easily won reelection in 2020. The border would have been secured earlier and real immigration reform would have passed. Republicans wouldn’t have wasted months on a shoddy ObamaCare replacement that didn’t even pass. Most importantly of all, half of Donald Trump’s presidency wouldn’t have been wasted on the Russia collusion hoax, which Congressional Republicans had the absolute power to quash in its infancy. The Ryan cabal refused to do so, for a reason that most Republican voters intuitively understand: They wanted the Trump presidency to fail, and wanted Democrats back in power over them.
In the second half of his speech, Ryan delivered his most insidious argument of all, claiming that the way for the GOP to move past the massive Democratic cultural offensive of 2020 is to simply ignore it entirely and hope it goes away:
As the left gets more ‘woke,’ the rest of America is getting weary. It’s exhausting. And we conservatives have to be careful not to get caught up in every little cultural battle. Sometimes these skirmishes are just creations of outrage peddlers, detached from reality and not worth anybody’s time. They draw attention away from the far more important case we must make to the American people.
Culture matters, yes, but our party must be defined by more than a tussle over the latest grievance or perceived slight. We must not let them take priority over solutions – grounded in principle – to improve people’s lives.
This is the most insidious argument of all. Just like he has his entire career, Ryan is calling for immediate and total capitulation to the left’s moral imperialism. “Don’t get caught up in every little cultural battle” translates to “let the left get away with endless pro-transgender and anti-white propaganda.” Earlier in his speech, Ryan himself lamented the rise of critical race theory to control America:
The least appealing feature of the party in power is its constant use of identity politics. So many issues on the left bring up this same dreary view of America as a collection of groups in perpetual conflict with each other. What we could once dismiss as pretentious academic theory confined to overworked dissertations in obscure journals somehow has become Democratic party orthodoxy. Everything has to be about race, gender, and class. … And lately, all of this has gone from ideology to obsession.”
Once again, what Ryan said was superficially true, but he leaves out precisely why this all-consuming identity politics has become so total and all-consuming: Because Ryan Republicans let it get that way. They did exactly what Ryan recommends, deciding “not to get caught up in every little cultural battle” and ceding the field entirely to the radical left. With a large House majority and control of the Senate, Republicans could have abolished critical race theory and other poisons worming their way through the federal government. They did not, instead leaving it for a Trump executive order in the final year of his term, an order that was swiftly tossed out by the Biden Administration.
Ryan Republicans have allowed the left to relentlessly push anti-white, anti-male, and pro-transgender extremism until it became the only ideology that can even be spoken aloud in America. Once these ideological norms have become as dominant as possible, Ryan Republicans will simply capitulate, and accept the Globalist American Empire’s framing as a legitimate and correct all along.
Paul Ryan was right on one thing: America needs a united Republican Party. Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders can take a big step toward that unity by denouncing Paul Ryan immediately. Ryan’s Trojan horse ideology isn’t needed in the Republican Party of today.