The Republicans’ golden boy, Paul Ryan, is no more. As of Wednesday April 10, Ryan will officially not be seeking re-election in the 2018 midterm elections, vacating his seat as Speaker of the House and abandoning the already floundering Republican party in the midst of the tumultuous Trump presidency.
After remaining non-committal during recent months when asked about campaigning for re-election this coming November, Ryan cited his family as the impetus behind his decision to step down in January 2019, when he will have completed his 20th year in Congress.
“I have accomplished much of what I came [to Congress] to do, and my kids aren’t getting any younger,” Ryan said during his announcement. “What I realized is if I serve for one more term my kids will only have known me as a weekend dad.”
Ryan’s stint as Speaker began in October 2015 after the Republican Party coaxed the reluctant Wisconsin representative to run for the position. This was following the self-removal of John Boehner’s desired replacement, Kevin McCarthy, from consideration for the position.
Over his two and a half year tenure, Ryan has vacillated between a leader with grandiose, seemingly concrete personal and political beliefs, and a politician lacking a backbone, the conviction to successfully craft and defend policy and the stomach to stand up to a president who has been anything but easy to work alongside.
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Ryan’s largest promise to the country and to his party was the infamous repeal and replacement of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. Since its installation in 2010, Ryan and other Republicans have lamented the economic disaster Obamacare allegedly poses to Americans, as well as reiterating time and again their desired healthcare system of privatized and expensive care is more practical and beneficial for the public.
With the 2016 election of rampantly conservative President Donald Trump, Ryan had all of the necessary tools at his disposal — a Republican majority in the House and the Senate, a Republican president jumping at the bit to overhaul fundamental, liberal institutions in the federal system, and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court to back any legislation that could pose legal problems.
But after a long internal battle about poorly drafted, unclear healthcare proposals Ryan spearheaded and with dissenting Republicans refusing to support the cornerstone, party line legislation, Ryan was unable to make good on his promise. He leaves the office of Speaker with the Affordable Care Act still fundamentally sound.
Ryan’s biggest failure in his tenure, however, was not his failure to coax the Republican’s key policy overhaul through a conservative-controlled Congress. Ryan’s largest failure was his inability to motivate, inspire and effectively lead his party. After 20 years in Congress, a failed vice-presidential bid on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential ticket and two and half years as Speaker of the House, Ryan has little more to show than failed policies and internal dissent within the RNC.
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Ryan failed to distance himself enough from Trump’s barrage of racist, ignorant and belligerent public statements to assuage Democrats’ misgivings in Congress, while also failing to align himself enough with the president to secure support from more radical Republicans. His stint as Speaker will certainly not be remembered as a time when the already-fractured and disoriented Republican party was able to band together in a moment ripe with political potential for conservative policy change. In fact, quite the opposite. Ryan’s speakership will be remember as one that fell flat, one that ended as abruptly as it began and with about as much lackluster.
In the wake of Ryan’s retirement from the Republican party at perhaps its most vulnerable state in years, party leaders and conservatives nationwide should be tremendously concerned about the future of their party.
Ryan isn’t leaving just because he misses his kids or his wife. Ryan’s leaving because, with a belligerent president unable to effectively rule and under investigation for collusion, dissension within the Republican party between moderates and hardliners and dwindling prospects in the upcoming midterm elections, the future is looking pretty damn bleak for a party that, just two years ago, was trumpeting the start of a new, Trumpian era in the United States.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.