As the results from this week’s off-year elections came in, nearly everyone was amazed to see just how well Democrats did from coast to coast. This wasn’t an instance in which the party scored a few heartening victories here and there; this was a legitimate national sweep.
And the result left Republicans in an awkward position. Does the party plow forward in a misguided direction or does the GOP consider a change of course? House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) answered that question in a rather definitive way yesterday.
After some back and forth with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, the host asked the House Speaker, “Is it going to be a choice for Republicans, Bush or Trump?” referring to former President George W. Bush, who’s raised concerns about the current president.
I expected Ryan to say the GOP has some diversity of thought, and there’s room in the tent for Republicans of various ideological persuasions, but as the Washington Post noted, the Speaker went in a different direction.
“We already made that choice,” he said. “We’re with Trump.”
And a thousand Democratic campaign ads were born.
“We already made that choice,” Ryan repeated. “That’s a choice we made at the beginning of the year. That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas. We ran on a joint agenda with Donald Trump. We got together with Donald Trump when he was President-elect Trump and walked through what is it we want to accomplish in the next two years. We all agreed on that agenda. We’re processing that agenda.”
My concerns about Paul Ryan notwithstanding, he isn’t necessarily wrong.
The “We’re with Trump” line makes for a handy soundbite, but the phrase that stood out for me in the interview was, “We already made that choice.” Whether the Speaker meant it this way or not, Ryan seemed to effectively be conceding, “It’s a little late to change course now.”
And if that is what Ryan meant, he has a credible point. It’s been a year since Trump’s election, and in that time, the Speaker of the House – like the overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans – has gone along with the GOP president’s wishes. Republicans have supported him, defended him, and enabled him at every turn.
The Democratic attack ads, highlighting just how often various GOP members have voted with the Trump White House, are already in the works. Republicans already climbed into the pigpen, and whether they scramble to get out or not, they won’t be able to easily wash off the mud.
The party tied its fortunes to an unfit amateur whose stability and character they quietly questioned. Republicans didn’t have to be “with Trump,” but they “made that choice.”