Left with no credible alternatives, the entirety of the Republican establishment has asked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to become the next Speaker of the House. They are, quite literally, begging the House Ways & Means Committee chairman to put aside his reservations – Ryan has repeatedly said he doesn’t want the job – and become the de facto leader of the GOP.
But as TPM noted the other day, for some in the party, even the far-right Wisconsinite just isn’t far-right enough.
[W]hile some of the hardliners … have expressed their support of Ryan, other conservatives are already begin to raise their concerns about Ryan’s record. The question is not just whether Ryan would have the votes necessary to win the speakership on the House floor, but also his ability if elected to bring the hardliners in line and avoid shutdowns, debt defaults, and the array of looming government crises.
On Friday, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) both said they’re reluctant to back Ryan for Speaker. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) dismissed the very idea of Ryan as the GOP’s consensus candidate. “I think that’s more media-driven,” Fleming said. “I think that’s you guys [in the media] who keep talking about Paul Ryan.”
BuzzFeed’s John Stanton told Rachel on the show on Friday that he’s not sure Ryan could receive 218 votes for Speaker from his GOP colleagues.
Away from Capitol Hill, far-right media outlets and prominent personalities – Breitbart.com, Erick Erickson, et al – have expressed concerns that Ryan just isn’t a reliable enough ally to the Republican Party’s hard-line base. Even Fox Nation took a not-so-subtle shot at the Wisconsin congressman on Friday.
Ryan’s right-wing critics have a list of complaints that’s at least rooted in fact – he was a major proponent of the Wall Street bailout and has expressed support for immigration reform – though their search for ideological purity arguably says more about them than him.
Look, among prominent, national political figures, Paul Ryan is one of the most far-right officials in recent memory. The reason he’s seen as a potentially unifying force among House Republicans is that Ryan is conservative on practically everything – he’s a far-right culture warrior who worked with Todd Akin to redefine “rape” and he’s the architect of a ridiculous budget plan that scraps Medicare while cutting taxes for the wealthiest of the wealthy.
If this guy falls short of contemporary GOP standards, then the Republican Party may simply need to split into two distinct entities.
Five years ago, former Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) said about one of his former colleagues, “If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”
Soon after, Indiana’s Lugar was seriously challenged in a primary – which he lost by 20 points. By Danforth’s standards, the Republican Party is genuinely “beyond redemption.”
Five years later, if Paul Ryan isn’t right-wing enough to get elected as Speaker, the GOP has gone so far overboard that there’s no point in the Republican Party even existing in its current iteration.