How Serious Will The Trumpist War Against Paul Ryan Get?
Trump surrogate Sarah Palin was a guest on Jake Tapper's CNN show yesterday, where she endorsed efforts to defeat Paul Ryan's reelection bid back in Wisconsin because of his refusal to embrace Trump yet. "I think Paul Ryan is soon to be 'Cantored,' as in Eric Cantor," she told Tapper. "His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people, and as the leader of the GOP, the convention certainly, he is to remain neutral, and for him to already come out and say who he will not support was not a wise decision of his." She insists Ryan's motivation for not backing Trump stems from his own ambitions to run for president in 2020. Palin admitted she doesn't know the Trump-supporter, Paul Nehlen, who's challenging Ryan in the August 9 primary but vowed to work for his election over the Speaker. "I will do whatever I can for Paul Nehlen," she burbled, like a drooling idiot.
Palin isn't the first high-profile right-wing crackpot to endorse Nehlen over Ryan. Lunatic fringe blogger Michelle Malkin endorsed him last month and is hosting a fundraiser for him May 27 in the district. So far Trump is playing coy but if Ryan doesn't buckle under quickly, Trump could very well weigh in himself, stirring up even more of a intra-party hornet's nest than he already has. It's worth mentioning that the congratulatory call Trump claims he got from Ryan 3 weeks ago, never happened, at least according to Ryan's office. Ryan's spokesman, Brendan Buck, says Trump is lying about Ryan calling him.
Nehlen will need a lot of help. As of the March 31 FEC reporting deadline, Ryan had raised $9,192,271, spent $4,189,511, and was sitting on $7,683,081, while Nehlen hadn't reported raising any money at all. Undoubtably the noisy contretemps between Ryan and the Trump mob will boost Nehlen's fundraising capacity. Ironically, the DCCC has failed to recruit a candidate although two implausible Democrats, Tom Breu and Ryan Solen will face off in the August primary. Breu has $2,132 cash-on-hand and Solen has $887. Rob Zerban, the progressive Ryan-opponent who raised $2,265,721 in 2012 and won 43% of the vote would have run this year but was tired of being ruthlessly sabotaged by DCCC power-brokers like Steve Israel and Steny Hoyer in DC who undercut both his previous races.
In an uncharacteristically thoughtful piece, The Hill ran a list of ten policy issues that profoundly divide Trump and Ryan's orthodox conservatism. At best, Thursday's meeting can only paper over them, if they even get discussed at all.
• Ryan on Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: "This is not conservatism,” the Speaker said, standing in Republican National Committee headquarters. “What was proposed ... is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for."
• When it comes to the issue of taxes, Trump has been all over the map. But he recently told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie he absolutely supports raising taxes on the wealthy. Ryan, if he stands for only one thing politically, it is lowering taxes on the wealthy.
• Ryan and Trump are worlds apart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with Trump insisting it's "a horrible deal" that he's vowing to kill and Ryan being the leader of the congressional establishment forces pushing it through for Obama.
• Ryan and Trump have bioth flip-flopped on Cuba-- Ryan is now opposed to easing trade restrictions and Trump is now OK with it.
• Ryan wants to shut down Planned Parenthood and Trump says Planned Parenthood is helpful to women as a health resource.
• Trump says he'd ship 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the U.S. and Ryan likes the cheap labor for Big Business and backs some version of what xenophobes call amnesty.
• Ryan would like to abolish the minimum wage altogether while Trump is now open to raising it, although in the course of the weekend now says he's ready to see it abolished as well, moving closer to Ryan's orthodox right-wing, anti-worker position.
• Trump is a die-hard proponent of eminent domain, which Ryan sees as a form of tyranny.
• Ryan fights tooth and nail to cut Social Security benefits; Trump opposes any cuts and opposes raising the retirement age, another unpopular right-wing proposal Ryan loves.
• Trump wants to see Medicare negotiating from strength with drug companies for cheaper prices, something Ryan-- who has taken $494,607 in legalistic bribes from drug manufacturing companies-- opposes.
Ryan's southeast Wisconsin district has all or part of 6 counties. Last month's presidential primary saw Ted Cruz win the district; Trump triumphed, with narrow pluralities, in two counties-- Kenosha and Rock. This was Trump's county score in the GOP primary:
• Racine- 32.1%Nehlen has called Ryan's refusal to endorse Trump despicable and he's very aggressively milking it for all that it's worth. On a right-wing radio show he told the listeners that "Paul Ryan's not a unifier. He's no unifier. He's not on the side of the voters... It's the will of the people that we have to get behind. Paul Ryan has been the never Trump, never Cruz, never Rand Paul, he makes me crazy, that's who he's been. Paul Ryan is the #onlyme guy. That's who he is. He's been cranking up his PR machine. He's been just absolutely despicable I think in this whole thing... I think he either wants to be the nominee himself or he's trying to position somebody else, but I certainly think he thinks he's going to get this and the question I would ask is, why would you promote somebody who's failed in the world we're currently in? Why would you do that?"
• Kenosha- 42.2%
• Rock- 41.6%
• Walworth- 34.1%
• Waukesha- 22.1%
• Milwaukee- 26.1%
This fits in with Nehlen's narrative that hammers Ryan as the face of the despised Republican Establishment. "Paul Ryan is right at the head of a small group of party elites who continue to tell the American people they know better. He’s demonstrated that he’s not the unifier he claims. If he were a unifier, he would look for ways to work with the candidate that the American people have chosen in state after state. It’s clear that he’s right out in front of the establishment’s #OnlyMe team. The people have spoken. But Paul Ryan somehow thinks that the People are incompetent and that GOP elites should step in and guide them. The last time I checked, we lived in a representative republic. Paul Ryan seems to think we’re living in an oligarchy."
Much of Nehlen's case against Ryan could have easily been made by a progressive Democrat-- particularly Rob Zerban-- if the DCCC hadn't been staunchly and overtly protecting Ryan since 2008. It's unlikely that Ryan could be defeated in a Republican primary-- even if Nehlen does manage to fund his campaign adequately-- but WI-01 is a classic swing district where Democrats have won and could win again. All that stands in the way is Nancy Pelosi's ugly little deal to not target GOP leaders. Once she and Hoyer are gone-- if the congressional Democrats manage to break the grip of the K Street/Wall Street axis over their own leadership-- Republicans like Ryan in marginal districts will be swept out of office. Remember, when you hear high-paid, useful idiots like Maddow, the self-proclaimed "smartest person on TV," promise that Democrats can take back the House, you can't beat a candidate-- even one being weighed down by Trump's sewer-- unless you have a candidate running. The DCCC has made sure, once again, the Paul Ryan will have no plausible Democratic opponent.