As of yesterday, the grand total of instances in which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has felt the need to publicly rebuke Donald Trump reached incident #4. The first was following Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, which was followed by Trump hedging on support from white supremacists, which was followed by Trump seeming to encourage violence at his events.
Yesterday, the Republicans’ congressional leader said Trump’s rhetoric about possible “riots” at the Republican National Convention was “unacceptable.”
Ryan, however, still intends to support the party’s frontrunner if Trump wins the presidential nomination. In fact, when the House Speaker sat down with CNBC’s John Harwood this week, Ryan seemed to endorse at least some of Trump’s vision.
“I think what we’re hearing from are people who are really anxious, and they’re worried about their future. And so when they see open borders or porous borders where the rule of law is not even being applied, they’re very concerned. So I don’t think this is about race or culture. I think this is about whether we are continuing this beautiful American idea, or whether we’re fracturing as a country.”
There’s been a fair amount of debate in recent months about what’s contributed to Trump’s rise, and the degree to which racism and racially charged appeals may play a role. Ryan, however, seems to reject the thesis – Trump’s far-right voters, the Speaker said, are responding, at least in part, to “open borders or porous borders.”
For a Republican leader who seems awfully concerned about Trump’s message, it’s kind of amazing to see Ryan reading from Trump’s script.
Whether the Speaker understands the details or not, reality is stubborn. Ryan doesn’t have to like President Obama, but he should at least be prepared to acknowledge the fact that Obama has increased border security to levels without modern precedent; illegal immigration has gone down not up, and the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has declined every year since the president took office in 2009.
In other words, Ryan’s explanation for the prevailing winds in Republican politics is impossible to take seriously. If security along the nation’s Southern border is the driving motivation for conservative “anxiety,” these voters should be delighted with Obama-era developments.
Later in the same interview, the Speaker said he intends to take a conservative agenda to the country in 2016, at which point the country will have to “make a decision.” Ryan added, “[I]f we win the kind of election that we’re hoping to win in 2016, not unlike what Ronald Reagan, and my mentor Jack Kemp did in 1980, then we will have earned a mandate from the country to put these things in place.”
If memory serves, seven years ago, a guy by the name of Barack Obama took a progressive agenda to the country in 2008, at which point the country made a decision, electing a Democratic president, Senate, and House. As far as Ryan’s concerned, did they “earn a mandate from the country” to put progressive policies in place?
Because as I recall, the Wisconsin congressman and his allies said the opposite – just as Ryan did when he faced Obama/Biden four years later and lost by a comfortable margin.