In this through-the-looking-glass period in U.S. politics, where cognitive dissonance has become more normal than remarkable, there shouldn’t be much left that surprises us. The Republican National Committee has hired an outspoken critic of its presumptive presidential nominee to convince Hispanic voters to support him. The governor of South Carolina can tie Donald Trump’s rhetoric to a mass murder in her state, but still vow to support him as the presidential nominee.
It was still a little jarring, though, to watch House Speaker Paul Ryan deliver the weekly Republican address on Friday less than 24 hours after he endorsed Trump’s candidacy in an op-ed published by his hometown newspaper.
The United States, he warned, is headed in the wrong direction.
“How do we get back on track?” he asked. “Well, we can get angry, and we can stay angry … Or we can channel that anger into action … We can start to tackle our problems before they tackle us. This is what Americans do. We don’t accept decline. We don’t give in to division. We find a better way.”
The words would have carried a little more weight if Ryan, the lone senior elected Republican holdout in Trump’s effort to unite party leaders behind him, had not just publicly caved in to a candidate whose stock in trade is the very anger and division that Ryan decries.
Ryan was using the weekly address to tout “A Better Way,” the House Republican conference’s new set of proposals for addressing a variety of problems, including poverty, unemployment, a bloated tax code, national security, rising healthcare costs and what it views as executive overreach by the Obama administration.
Under Ryan, the House is expected to roll out a series of detailed policy proposals in the coming months, and his apparent hope is that if Trump somehow wins the White House, he will be willing to sign a Republican Congress’s bills into law. At least that’s how he justified his endorsement of Trump on Thursday.
“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.”
Like many others in the party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ryan appears to have latched onto the hope that once in power, a President Donald Trump will begin to display an interest in policy that has been utterly absent from his campaign so far.
And that he will stop stoking anger for anger’s sake.
And that he will stop dividing the nation along racial, ethnic and religious lines.
And that there will be ponies for everyone.