On Paul Ryan’s Decision to Not Seek Re-election: What’s Left

Glynnis Harvey, Assistant Commentary Editor

With the 2018 midterm elections on the horizon and fast approaching, the hope of a blue tide becomes a little more promising each week. Over the past few months a large collection of Republican representatives have chosen to not seek re-election. While in every election cycle people make their exits, this one stands out, especially in the House of Representatives. Often people choose to not run again because they decided to run for Senate, are preparing to run for President, or due to old age or scandal. It is unusual for so many to outright retire. Although Republicans won across the board in 2016, many representatives fear the chance of losing in 2018. Republicans face the backlash from both sides. Either they are disappointing their constituents by toeing the Trump administration’s line too closely, or not closely enough. It could be because of a Democratic or a radical primary opponent, but House Republicans are choosing to bow out of tough races. I see this as an attempt to save face, but, in the era of Trumpism, history will still not remember them kindly.

The most high profile Congressional dropout is Mr. Speaker himself, Paul Ryan. Although a 20-year tenure in the House of Representatives is a long time, this is only his first full term as Speaker of the House and he is only 48-years-old. He claims he is retiring to spend more time with his kids. That’s a nice reason, but amidst the turmoil of the current political climate, I am not sure how I feel about it.

When reviewing the 10 terms Ryan has served in the House, all you will find is disappointment and greed. A man steadfast in his beliefs that in turn only perpetuated the deficit and made the rich richer. The image that Ryan has tried to paint for himself has never felt genuine. From his “relatable” story of standing around a beer keg dreaming of capping the growth rate of Medicaid, to the “reluctant” leader who took on the Speakership only because his party needed him, Ryan tries to get across that he is really just a simple, loyal public servant.

But, hardly a man of the people, Ryan has been living in the pocket of Donald Trump for a while now. Despite a campaign full of racist, sexist, ableist and xenophobic remarks. Despite the Access Hollywood tape. Despite the dangerous Twitter antics. Despite five people involved with the president and his campaign being convicted and many more indicted for ties with Russia. Despite all this, Ryan has done nothing. As Speaker of the House, he was positioned to be the single best person to choose country over party and stand up to the divisive and destructive actions of Donald J. Trump. Yet he has continuously chosen not to.

In the face of nationalist sentiments ravaging our political system, Ryan focused on his career. As he saw the Republican base rally behind the dark messaging of Trumpism, Ryan stayed quiet. In fear of losing his gavel, Ryan saw the opportunity to get his agenda passed. It’s ironic, then, that with a Republican president and Congress now in place, the Affordable Care Act has not been repealed, the budget hasn’t been balanced and the tax bill he passed increases the deficit by three trillion dollars. 

Tim Alberta of Politico exposed Ryan’s true colors in his article “The Tragedy of Paul Ryan.” Before the polls closed during the presidential election, Ryan believed that Hillary Clinton would win, so he prepared a speech. Alberta reports that the speech entailed a condemnation of Trump and his version of the Republican party. Ryan was finally going to stand up to all the horrible things Trump did and stood for. But after Trump was declared the electoral college winner, that speech was never given and Ryan continued to stay complicit. 

Checks and balances were created to stop the corruption of our government. Choosing career and personal protection over our democracy is inexcusable and unforgivable. After years of failed promises and reckless policies, Ryan’s weak backbone has finally snapped. This is for the better. America can can now move on with hope for a new crop of leadership. 

I will not miss you, Mr. Speaker. I hope your kids turn out better than you did.

Contact Glynnis Harvey at [email protected]