Donald Trump has spent much of the last few days trying to convince
Americans not to trust the integrity of the election system, which the Republican presidential candidate believes without evidence is "rigged." The argument is so wrong, and so corrosive, that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) felt compelled to say he's "fully confident
" the elections will be carried out fairly.It was a subtle rebuke -- the Speaker's office didn't criticize the GOP presidential nominee specifically -- but Ryan's willingness to defend the American system of elections nevertheless seemed to infuriate Trump. The Republican presidential hopeful tweeted
"The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee!"
"Paul Ryan, a man who doesn't know how to win (including failed run four years ago), must start focusing on the budget, military, vets etc."
Remember, in this case, all Ryan did was say, through a spokesperson, "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the Speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."It was enough to reinforce Trump's case that Ryan -- the Republican leader who continues to endorse Trump's candidacy -- is an enemy. The candidate's offensive against the House Speaker began in earnest
last week; it reached a new level when Trump accused Ryan of being part of a "sinister
" conspiracy against the GOP ticket; and it includes Trump allies making some pretty bizarre allegations
against the Wisconsin congressional leader.Indeed, Sean Hannity, one of Trump's most enthusiastic media allies, publicly reiterated his belief on Friday that Republicans need to replace
Paul Ryan -- with someone even more right-wing.The problem for the GOP -- well, one of them anyway -- is that the election won't end this dispute. As we've discussed
, Trump wants a scapegoat to blame in the event of his defeat, and he's decided Ryan makes a convenient foil. For Trump's followers, if the Republican ticket comes up short, the idea that the House Speaker bears responsibility will quickly become an accepted truth.In the process, the party's civil war is likely to continue well into 2017.