Paul Ryan Deserves Our Respect For Abandoning Trump

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, on Monday:

Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republicans on a conference call Monday morning that he’s done defending Donald Trump and will focus on maintaining his party’s increasingly imperiled House majority, according to sources on the call….Ryan told his members that “you all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” said a source on the call, giving rank-and-file lawmakers political cover to disavow Trump.

National Review editor Rich Lowry, today:

I’ve come to believe [Ryan’s call] was a mistake. As Tim Alberta pointed out, he didn’t really say anything new….All the call did was create more headlines about Republican dissension, make Ryan a hate figure for the Trump right, set Ryan up for the blame if Trump loses, and provoke Trump into pointlessly spending days attacking the speaker. None of this is helpful to anyone, especially to Ryan.

I’ve spent countless hours writing posts about Ryan’s fundamental dishonesty on policy. He plays the part of deficit scold, compassionate conservative, and policy intellectual, but every year he releases a budget roadmap that would cut taxes on the rich, slash services to the poor, and blow up the deficit. Then, despite having the policy chops to know perfectly well what his roadmap would do, he blandly pretends it doesn’t. I have very little patience for this.

That said, I confess to sympathizing with him over Donald Trump. He’s taken a lot of crap from liberals over his hypocrisy in refusing to defend Trump but continuing to endorse him. But what can he realistically do? As he made clear months ago, he’s a leader of the Republican Party. He really has no choice but to endorse the party’s presidential candidate.

So why did he make such a point of abandoning Trump on Monday even though—as Lowry points out—he didn’t really say anything new? I think the reason Ryan spoke up is simple: He may not feel that his position allows him to officially unendorse Trump, but he wanted to make it clear that, in practice, he doesn’t endorse Trump. Lowry believes this was not helpful to Ryan, and I think he’s right about that. What’s more, I’m quite sure Ryan is keenly aware of it. Martin Longman thinks it might cost Ryan the speakership.

In other words, at considerable risk to his own career, Ryan felt like he had to make it clear how disgusted he was by Trump. I have nothing but respect for that. He didn’t have to do it. No one would ever have noticed if he hadn’t. But Ryan has enough of a conscience that he couldn’t stay silent. Kudos to him for that.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest