It was just two weeks ago that Donald Trump hedged on denouncing support from white supremacists, sparking the latest in a series of controversies. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), despite his officially neutrality in the 2016 race, quickly and publicly made his feelings clear.
“Today I want to be very clear about something, if a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games, they must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry,” Ryan said. “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”
And if the party’s presidential nominee does prey on people’s prejudices? Well, so be it – Ryan said he’d support the Republican candidate no matter what.
Similarly, following unrest at several Trump rallies, the House Speaker told reporters this morning that he’s concerned about liberals disrupting political events, but Ryan added, “All candidates have an obligation to do what they can do to try and provide an atmosphere of harmony, to reduce the violence, to not incite violence and to make sure that we are appealing to people on their best ideals.”
Right. And if the Republican candidate ignores that obligation? No matter – Ryan’s still going to vote for him.
House Speaker Paul Ryan continues to say that he will still support whoever wins the Republican nomination, even though he has criticized Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and the sometimes violent atmosphere at his rallies.Asked Tuesday whether he’ll support the GOP nominee, Ryan replied: “My position hasn’t changed on that.”
If it seems like this keeps happening, that’s because it does. Trump said he wants to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country, which drew a rebuke from Paul Ryan. Trump hedged on the KKK, which drew another rebuke from the House Republican leader. Trump seemed to play a direct role in encouraging violence at his campaign events, which drew yet another Ryan rebuke.
But each admonishment was followed by the same caveat: if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee, Ryan has every intention of voting for him anyway.
Ryan’s spokesperson reminded the political world today that the Wisconsin Republican doesn’t have much of a choice, at least with regards to the procedural constraints: one of the responsibilities of the sitting Speaker of the House is serving as the chair of the Republican National Convention.
Ordinarily, this is largely a ceremonial role, but in 2016, with the prospect of a contested convention looming, Ryan has a fair point when he stresses the importance of his official neutrality. After all, over the summer, he’s going to preside over the national Republican gathering.
But this doesn’t change the disjointed nature of Ryan’s message: he wants Trump to be more responsible, and if the candidate ignores the warning, Ryan intends to do exactly nothing in response.
So long as the Speaker’s prospective backing is unconditional, what incentive does Trump have to behave more responsibly? Indeed, so long as every other Republican presidential candidate and practically the entire GOP congressional leaders says exactly what Paul Ryan is saying, what pressure does Trump feel to dramatically change course?
The answer is, there is no incentive and there is no pressure.