The Republican Party establishment’s last line of resistance to the Donald Trump collapsed Thursday. The humbling notice of surrender and a request for favorable terms came in the form of an op-ed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, submitted to his hometown paper, the Janesville Gazette, and published Thursday.
And if anything, it seems to justify Trump’s constant assertion that he is the world’s greatest dealmaker, because he appears to have got everything he wanted, while Ryan got ... nothing.
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Ryan, the only high-ranking elected Republican who had not yet endorsed Trump, wrote that he will be voting for the billionaire former reality television star in November because, “For me, it’s a question of how to move ahead on the ideas that I—and my House colleagues—have invested so much in through the years. It’s not just a choice of two people, but of two visions for America. And House Republicans are helping shape that Republican vision by offering a bold policy agenda, by offering a better way ahead.
“Donald Trump can help us make it a reality.”
Ryan did not specifically say that he was endorsing Trump, but his chief communications advisor, Brendan Buck, tweeted Thursday afternoon, “We’re not playing word games, feel free to call it an endorsement.”
In that, at least, Ryan took a stronger stand than many of his fellow Republicans, who have tried to dance around the topic by insisting that a promise to vote for Trump doesn’t count as an endorsement. (Others have manufactured reasons not to attend the GOP nominating convention in July, declining to admit that it’s because they don’t want to be on the same stage as the party’s nominee.)
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The House Speaker’s decision to throw his weight behind Trump was not completely unexpected, but it will come as a disappointment to some conservatives in the “Never Trump” movement who hoped to see Ryan take a principled stand against a man who many of them believe to be unfit to hold the office of the president. Ryan had given them hope by openly criticizing Trump during the primary and by initially withholding an announcement of support for the campaign.
Ryan’s endorsement of the mercurial real estate mogul was less than full-throated.
“It’s no secret that he and I have our differences,” he wrote of Trump. “I won’t pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.”
He writes that, in considering the options before him of Trump or Hillary Clinton, he found himself certain that Clinton would reject the priorities of House Republicans in favor of “four more years of liberal cronyism and a government more out for itself than the people it serves.”
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In Trump, on the other hand, he at least sees some hope to enact a Republican agenda.
“To enact these ideas, we need a Republican president willing to sign them into law. That’s why, when he sealed the nomination, I could not offer my support for Donald Trump before discussing policies and basic principles,” he wrote.
He added, “Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life ... But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue. We’ve talked about the common ground this agenda can represent. We’ve discussed how the House can be a driver of policy ideas. We’ve talked about how important these reforms are to saving our country. And we’ve talked about how, by focusing on issues that unite Republicans, we can work together to heal the fissures developed through the primary.
“Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”
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It’s notable that there has been no public statement from either Trump or Ryan indicating that Trump has agreed to moderate the divisive language that Ryan has criticized or to bring his policies -- including a vow not to touch entitlement spending, one of Ryan’s primary concerns -- more into line with what House Republicans generally believe.
On May 6, Ryan stunned the political world by announcing that he was not prepared to endorse the party’s presumptive nominee, leaving no doubt that he wanted to see substantial changes before he was ready to back Trump.
He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he wanted to use the general election to unify the Republican Party and the conservative movement with a campaign that would give voters “something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of ... And we've got a ways to go from here to there.”
However, unless there is an unspoken agreement between the two men, it would appear that Ryan got very little in the way of concessions from Trump.