I had high hopes for Paul Ryan. I really did. I identified with him. We’re around the same age. Both raised Catholic. Both lost parents at a young age. That experience shaped our views of the world. I read his book and liked his message. It’s a positive conservative one, formed by years of working for Jack Kemp. Kemp was a brand of reasonable conservative that went extinct long ago-from the days of a functioning congress.
I didn’t vote for him and Mitt. I felt like the healthcare reform accomplished by 2012 wouldn’t have survived a one term Obama presidency. And for me, that was the paramount issue in that cycle. So that’s where my vote went. But I liked the other ticket. And though I’m satisfied with my decision, if they were around this cycle, Mitt and Paul would have had my vote. But they didn’t run. Others did. And we are where we are.
After three years of Obamacare, I think we’ve moved the needle enough that any course correction would require an alternative that provided a better solution instead of the straight repeal that we would have seen in 2012. I think that’s a clear eyed assessment of where we are. Republicans have had seven years to come up with one. They haven’t. So I think we’re on steady ground to at least hold what we’ve got or get something better to stabilize it. More people covered. No pre-existing condition exclusions. Reasonable cost-for now. I’m open to a better idea. Just not to what we had before.
So I’ve shifted my criteria for my vote. Which is a crazy thought these days. But one I’d encourage you to investigate. It’s liberating. And responsible.
But I’m at a troubling impasse, like just about everyone else I talk to. Because this cycle, I actually have two criteria for my vote. Not just one. And no candidates. The first is a candidate that will tackle our potentially catastrophic entitlement problems-medicare, social security, pensions etc. And for that, there were multiple conservative options that I felt could have gotten us there, none more than Ryan, but he didn’t run. Like I said, others did.
The second criteria has been a little more troubling for the existing Republican Party. It’s a tall order. But an important one. I want a president who can be the executive leader of a government that represents the American people of 2016-and beyond. A multi-ethnic, gender equal, religiously tolerant, socially inclusive populous. I don’t want one that represents the Americans of 1950, or even 1980. I want 2016 America represented. And that’s a problem that Republicans looked straight in the eye in 2008 when a one term senator stared down a lion of the Senate and a war hero, and defeated him in a landslide. And now, 8 years later, that message still hasn’t sunk in. I had hopes for someone like Ryan to help. This last week, that light went out for me.
If you’ve been living under a rock, or at least away from political headlines, you may not have heard that Donald Trump recently claimed that the federal judge presiding over the law suit related to the now defunct Trump University was unfit to rule over the case, because he is of Latino descent. That’s right. In 2016, he said that.
Never mind the long list of reasons that Trump’s claim was factually incorrect or unprecedented or that Trump’s lawyers have filed no formal request for the judge to recuse himself. And that this was really just Trump being Trump-anything for an edge you know. The issue at hand here was that the current Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States made a statement that only white men are allowed to preside over court cases that involve him. And that’s a big deal. And there’s quite a bit of fall out. And perhaps, for the first time-or the tenth-the man’s gone too far.
On Monday, Speaker Ryan spoke up in response, less than a week after having finally endorsed Mr. Trump as his chosen candidate.
“I disavow these comments — I regret those comments that he made, I think that they should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Yes Speaker Ryan.
“It’s sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Yes Speaker Ryan.
“And I don’t believe our party can move forward with a legitimate claim to the responsibility of leading the American people of 2016 until our leaders abandon such archaic and divisive views. And that I, in all good conscience, cannot support a man who either holds those unacceptable values or lacks the conviction to refuse to falsely state them for personal gain.”
Except he didn’t say that part. That last part after “textbook definition of a racist comment.” That part that sounded like conviction. Those were my words-the words I wish he said. Those words would have taken just a little more backbone. And just a little more self sacrifice. The type of thing that the Paul Ryan from his book would have said. What Jack Kemp would have said. He said something else though. Something that I think will be remembered as the single most descriptive statement for the dysfunction of the conservative political movement in 2016 America.
He actually continued, “I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him…And at the end of the day, this is about ideas.”
Let me translate. He’s a racist. But that’s not a big deal. Because he supports our policies. And our ideas.
Like I said. I had high hopes for Speaker Ryan.
The Speaker is right about one thing though. This is about ideas. One idea in particular. And it’s the single most destructive idea our country has ever had. It’s an idea that we got so wrong at the dawn of our nation, that we’ve spent more blood and more treasure and more time trying to undo it than any single problem our country has ever faced. More than government spending, more than terrorism, more than all of it. And it’s still here. And it’s long overdue existence is poisoning our conservative ideology. It’s the idea of racial inequality.
From the 3/5 Compromise written into our Constitution to the institution of slavery to the 600,000 American lives lost to end it. To the destruction of the southern economy that still hasn’t recovered. To Jim Crow and segregation and an existing crippling gap in education, income and poverty prevalence that still exists today. Our prisons are overrun with minorities. Our destitute urban neighborhoods are trapped in a cycle of joblessness and recidivism. Ten generations have passed since the founding of our country. Two have grown to participate in society without legal racial segregation. We are not done with the fallout of our horrible idea. And the conservative movement has no claims to governing a population that is 40% not white until it stomps out the tolerance of racial inequality within their ranks.
It’s worse than Benghazi. It’s worse than an email scandal. It’s worse than the infidelity of a husband. It’s worse than any idea we’ve ever had. And it’s not close. So when someone pushes it aside as if it were an inconvenient but forgivable personal flaw, that’s wrong. As wrong as wrong gets.
I don’t envy Speaker Ryan’s position. But I also won’t let him say he has no choice. Men of conviction always reserve the right to choose right. You just have to be willing to face the consequences. That’s the way conviction works. Do right no matter what the personal cost. But I will give him one tip if he needs an out-and he appears to. It’s something that’s gotten lost in all of this Trump mania. It’s this. Most registered Republicans didn’t actually vote for Trump. That’s right.With over 28 million votes counted so far across all primaries, 54% of registered Republicans, the ones that took the time to go to the poles, or to caucus, voted against Trump. The base, actually doesn’t want him either.
And if using that as an excuse to satisfy your base isn’t quite enough risk management for him, then Speaker Ryan might consider supporting the Libertarian candidate. Gary Johnson will be on the ballot in every state of the union. Look him up. He’s the son of a D-Day vet and a former Republican Governor of New Mexico as recently as 2003. You know, the party Ryan joined. The party with Jack Kemp. Nothing says small government values like a no-government idealist. If you can’t live with Hillary, maybe you can live with him.
The point is this. Speaker Ryan had a choice. And he chose the path of weakness, one I fear for his sake, will be how he’s remembered 100 years from now. He could have been remembered for so much more. This was a moment for a towering man of history. But we didn’t get that. We got something else.
I had such high hopes for Paul Ryan. Maybe next cycle, someone somewhere will step up and be remembered as the one who loved his country more than his party-more than his political prospects. Until then, we’ve got to live with the residue of what’s left behind when courageous men fail to do courageous things.