by Scott McKay
We aren’t actually governed by Paul Ryan, whose brief time as House Speaker ended in what can only be described as a surrender. Ryan bolted from the Speaker’s chair the minute the 2018 elections were over. He was happy to leave Congress to take a “cashing-in” job on the Fox Corporation board while his party took an electoral bath in those midterms he could blame on Donald Trump.
But as readers of The American Spectator know, in this space we’ve been exploring the premise that Americans are governed by people who suck. And Ryan put himself in that category even from outside the elective-office sphere this week when he offered up a tired and tiresome narrative about the future of the Republican Party.
What is it with these washed-up politicians, who are clearly the party’s past, demanding the GOP follow their instructions as to its future? Do we have to exhume the remains of Nelson Rockefeller and Thomas Dewey or conduct seances with them for guidance in how to defeat the 21st-century Left?
And isn’t it telling that Ryan, who shepherded the GOP to a huge 2018 loss not too terribly long after serving as the vice-presidential candidate on Mitt Romney’s somnambulant and intellectually moribund ticket in 2012, aggregates upon himself the wisdom to see the party’s future?
We’ll back up for a second for the benefit of those who missed what he said Thursday night at the Reagan Library. Here is some of that:
Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads. And here’s one reality 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….
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….
In 2020, the country wanted a nice guy who would move to the center and depolarize our politics. Instead, we got a nice guy pursuing an agenda more leftist than any president in my lifetime. These policies might have the full approval of his progressive supporters, but they break faith with the middle-of-the-road folks who made the difference for him on Election Day.
For conservatives, this painful existence as the opposition can actually be an opportunity. Out of these years can come a healthy, growing, and united conservative movement, a movement that speaks again to the heart of a great nation.…
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 sounds so much like the swill Bill Cassidy has been peddling, to very limited applause inside the GOP, that it comes off as practically word for word. It’s almost like Ryan is Joe Biden cribbing from Neil Kinnock.
And one wonders how Ryan, as a board member from Fox, ends up swallowing whole CNN’s talking points.
Starting with the idea that there is some vast Trumpian cult of personality out there upon which Republican politics is now based. That is an utter and complete lie, and an obvious one.
Let’s remember that if Trump hadn’t won the GOP nomination in 2016, it would have been Ted Cruz carrying the party’s standard. For all the back-and-forth between the two, Cruz was the next closest thing to Trump as an iconoclastic conservative willing to skewer the party’s establishment and reexamine many of the “conservative principles that unite us,” in Ryan’s telling. And Cruz has only moved closer to Trump’s point of view since then.
As have lots of Cruz’s colleagues. Look at Lindsey Graham, who not all that long ago was “mini-me” to John McCain. Lindsey Graham isn’t some cult-of-personality stooge. He might be more of a weathervane instead; you’ll know what Republican voters want by watching Graham’s presentation, because he’s stuck around this long by doing a hell of a job keeping up with the times.
The Trumpian version of Lindsey Graham withstood $100 million spent against him on the part of the current chairman of the DNC last year and nevertheless beat that opponent in a 55-45 landslide.
What does Paul Ryan have on his resume to counter Graham’s MAGA accomplishments?
Republican voters aren’t rubes. They lined up behind Trump because he promised a departure from the country-clubby Bush Republicanism that had so atrophied the party that it was on the way to permanent irrelevance. And they stayed loyal to Trump because, unlike Ryan, he actually tried to keep his promises.
And who is Ryan talking about when he references “impressive” and “polished” leaders of the movement? If it’s Mitt Romney, then the proper response is “Oh, shut up.”
Then he says Joe Biden is a nice guy. Joe Biden is an unmitigated cretin, a crook of long standing, a serial creeper and groper of women, and a liar of such brazenness and bad faith that it’s almost comic. Why would Ryan, who one assumes would know the man, give him such a free pass?
Then there is this passive condemnation of wokeism. Ryan says Republicans shouldn’t be fighting all the cultural battles, which is another page out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce playbook — refuse to fight in the culture, which is upstream from politics, and then diminish your political expectations thanks to the results.
This is how you lose.
Essentially what Ryan is saying is that as the Left gets dumber and more out of touch on cultural issues with each of their woke aggressions, the Right ought to refrain from capitalizing and taking advantage. Why should anyone accept such advice or even credit that it’s offered in good faith?
When Ace of Spades got hold of the transcript of this political capitulation, it was too much for him to stomach. A military-grade truth bomb shortly detonated:
Social libertarians like Paul Ryan — and 90% of the Conservative, Inc. media — fight for the left’s social and cultural agenda, but not honestly, not straightforwardly by proclaiming their belief in the left’s socio-cultural agenda.
No, the [sic] do so crookedly, sneakily. They advance the left’s goals not by explicitly supporting the leftwing cultural agenda — that would be too honest — but instead by attacking conservatives for fighting back in the culture war.
They never have a damn thing to say about the left’s constant cultural aggressions — and do not propose to do anything about the left’s nigh-unbroken string of culture war victories — but they always have something critical to say about conservatives merely resisting the cultural left, or trying to push back on fronts where the left has recently seized ground.
There was a saying of Orwell’s popular during the War on Terrorism: Pacifism — in an age of Nazi conquest — is objectively pro-fascist. That is, if you’re not fighting the Nazis — and, indeed, if you’re undermining the efforts of others to fight the Nazis — you are objectively on the Nazi side, even if you refuse to be honest and fly the Nazi flag yourself.
This is precisely what these cultural liberals are doing. They refuse to honestly admit that they are on the left’s side — that they support the Court’s imposition of gay marriage, and that they do in fact support the imposition that bakers must bake cakes for gay weddings.
They don’t like it when deplorables fight these things, and would like their political cousins to stop embarrassing them at parties.
They don’t like it when conservatives oppose chopping off parts of children’s bodies because a kid has decided that today he’s a female and maybe a unicorn too.
And they don’t like it when conservatives are so declasse as to refuse the “polite request” (a polite request backed up with the threat of getting you banned or fired) that we use people’s preferred pronouns.
Again, they find it embarrassing when conservatives kick up a fuss about that.
Can’t conservatives just be cool about the left’s total victory in the culture war, like the left-libertarians are?
And of course, they think conservatives are despicable — racist, in fact — for demanding secure borders and a democratic say in who it is who is allowed to immigrate here and become a citizen.
They speak of this in terms expressly taken from the left — enforcing the border is “enforcing a white nationalist ethno-state.”
(They also talk a lot about foreigners being better citizens than mere Americans.)
Now, in all these cases, I say again, they are too cowardly and dishonest to proclaim, honestly, that they are on the left side of these issues, and indeed, always have been on the left side.
No, they won’t say that.
Instead, they’ll just continue attacking you and undermining you and sabotaging you when you attempt to fight the left on these issues.
They won’t honestly march with the left during their campaigns.
They’ll just sneak around the battlefield filling in the trenches you have dug and ripping down the pickets you have erected.
Just as being pacifist in a time when Nazis have taken over most of Europe is to be objectively on the side of the Nazis, so too is it to be a member of the Left when you demanding that the right (and the right only!) stop fighting the culture war when the left has won on almost every cultural issue.
Later, Ace wonders exactly which cultural issues Ryan suggests we shouldn’t engage on. Is it sex changes for 10-year-olds? Is it teaching that math is racist? Drag Queen Story Hour? Bestiality? Pedophilia? At what point along the Left’s cultural-aggression Trail of Tears does Paul Ryan finally get his dander up and demand it stop?
Cultural issues are where the Right represents the vast majority of the people now. It perhaps wasn’t that way a decade ago when Paul Ryan could have been said to be relevant in American politics, but it certainly is true now.
What else is true is Paul Ryan doesn’t have anything to offer to the Republican Party. If he thought this speech was going to resuscitate him as a national political figure, he was sorely mistaken. It didn’t. It just showed us one more example of how Ryan’s out-of-touch brand of Republicanism sucks.
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott’s other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits – check it out here.
Photo “Paul Ryan” by Gage Skidmore CC 2.0.