Haven’t we heard the Paul-Ryan-Is-Going-To-Save-Our-Party cry before? Oh yes. It was during the 2012 presidential campaign and he had just been named as Mitt’s VP and all-around bro-dude-crush-brat-wurst-beeer-guy. Ryan’s inclusion was going to mean that the campaign would now be fought with ideas and policy and a serious purpose and all of the things the mainstream media gets hard and wet over but never seems to become the focus of the parties. Turns out that 2012 was not a policy-driven campaign but one in which a master campaigner and tactician – President Barack Obama – wiped the floor with Mr. 47% and Mr. I’m-going-to-cut-Medicare-for-your-own-good. It was not a great campaign, but a win’s a win and Ryan was on the losing side.
Thus spake history.
And here we go again. Ryan is now being heavily courted to become the next Speaker of the House by the same people who lost control of the Republican Party in 2010 and have been battling its right rear haunch ever since. If Ryan is as smart as people say he is – and not only is the jury still out on that, it’s likely a hung jury – he’ll run straight to the Wisconsin Dells and hide behind a heifer until this episode is over.
The bottom line absolute truth is that there is no savior for the Republican Party. Whoever becomes the next Speaker will get about one week honeymoon before Trey Gowdy, Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster (who’s no Daniel Webster, by the way) turn on him or her (OK, definitely him. It is the GOP after all) and start plotting the next government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. This is not a job for someone who wants to be seen as a strong leader because the Tea Party will not let it happen. In fact, they want to weaken the power and influence of that position because they stand for citizen control of the government. And they’re going to take the government down with them if they don’t get what they want.
That all of this is happening just when many people are starting to pay attention to the party primaries is not good long-term news for the GOP. The far right is going to get their pound of flesh and will parade it in front of the remaining Republican candidates and ask for their blessing. This will be a defining moment for Jeb!, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie (never count him out) and Rand Paul because they’ll have to choose between the pragmatic route to the presidency or the expedient way to the nomination. I am not confident about what their answers will be.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes and generally out of ear-and-mugshot, is the wiliest politician in the country, Nancy Pelosi. She’s managed to keep what’s becoming a more fractious (in context, of course) Democratic caucus unified and strong. She’s worked with Boehner and has let him take the headlines because any deal with her would be a deal-breaker for much of the right. The Speaker needs Democratic votes to keep the government funded and to possibly get a highway bill passed before he leaves, and Pelosi has been there to keep the country on the, well, right track.
Boehner can now ask for votes from the left. He doesn’t need to keep the far right happy anymore. And that’s going to be the first problem for Ryan or anyone who becomes the next Speaker. If it’s one of the Tea Partiers, they will find that what passes for moderates will balk at the most extreme legislative proposals and Democrats will, of course, stay away. If it’s a more mainstream Republican, then the far right will block the laws. Does Ryan really want this headache? No. He does not.
Congress has adjourned for a couple of weeks so that members can go back to their districts and get an earful about abortion and the banks and the health care law and guns. When they come back, the stark reality of actually helping to govern the country will stare menacingly back at them.