For months, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) offered two competing messages. The Republican leader repeatedly felt compelled to denounce Donald Trump’s rhetoric, but at the same time, the Wisconsin congressman insisted he would support his party’s presidential nominee – no matter who prevailed in the primaries and caucuses.
But late last week, with Trump’s GOP rivals having abandoned the race, Ryan just couldn’t bring himself to follow through. “I’m just not ready to do that at this point,” he said when asked about backing Trump publicly. “I’m not there right now.”
Some congressional Republicans were incensed, as were some Republican pundits. Trump is even threatening to remove Ryan as chairman of this year’s Republican National Convention. But as MSNBC’s Christina Coleburn reported yesterday, a certain former half-term governor of Alaska intends to go even further.
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said in an interview that aired Sunday that House Speaker Paul Ryan could be ousted for his hesitancy to back Donald Trump, and suggested that Ryan’s reluctance was fueled by aspirations to run for president in 2020.When asked for her thoughts about Ryan’s stance on Trump, Palin invoked former Rep. Eric Cantor. The ex-Republican House majority leader, who was viewed as the likely successor to former House Speaker John Boehner, was defeated by a Tea Party challenger in a stunning upset in the 2014 Virginia primary.
“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” Palin said on CNN. “His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people, and as the leader of the GOP, the convention, certainly he is to remain neutral, and for him to already come out and say who he will not support was not a wise decision of his.”
I see. So, the Republican Party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee has decided to go to war with the Republican Party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.
What a healthy political party this is.
The reference to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wasn’t accidental. The Alaska Republican added yesterday that she’s throwing her support behind Trump supporter Paul Nehlen, who’s taking on Ryan in a Wisconsin primary.
“Yes, I will do whatever I can for Paul Nehlen,” Palin said. “This man is a hard working guy, so in touch with the people. Paul Ryan and his ilk, their problem is they have become so disconnected from the people whom they are elected to represent … they feel so threatened at this point that their power, their prestige, their purse will be adversely affected by the change that is coming with Trump and someone like Paul Nehlen that they’re not thinking straight right now.”
A few hours later, Palin posted a Facebook message, which she appears to have written herself: “Rep. Paul Ryan abandoned the district he was to represent as special interests dictated his legislative priorities. Without ever having a real job outside of politics, it seems he disconnected himself from the people, thus easily disrespected the will of the people. It’s time for a change.”
Remember, by most metrics, Paul Ryan is the most conservative House Speaker in modern American history, but for the Trump wing of the Republican Party, Ryan is just an establishment sellout who needs to be replaced.
There’s little to suggest Ryan’s career in jeopardy – though, in fairness, I would have said the same thing about Eric Cantor two years ago at this time – and there’s even less to suggest the Speaker is worried about the primary. Palin has a habit of picking pointless fights that don’t amount to much, and for her to complain about someone else “abandoning” their constituents is kind of hilarious.
But the bottom line is that in a normal, functioning party, fights like these simply don’t happen. In 2016, it’s become almost commonplace in Republican politics.