Paul Ryan Tells GOP to Move Past Trump, ‘Outrage Peddlers’
(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling on the Republican Party to avoid getting caught up in culture wars and to move beyond Donald Trump, saying the conservative movement won’t advance if it remains dominated by him and his acolytes.
Ryan spoke Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California as part of a speaker series on the future of the GOP and the conservative movement. While Ryan credits Trump for bringing new voters into the party and strengthening the pre-pandemic economy, he argued without criticizing the former president by name that Trumpism is the wrong approach.
“Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads,” Ryan said in prepared remarks. “And here’s one reality we have to face. If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere.”
Ryan, who represented a district in Wisconsin, a battleground state, warned against candidates who try to mimic Trump’s particular political brand. He said voters want GOP leaders with independence and mettle and “will not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatters flocking to Mar-a-Lago” -- a reference to the GOP leaders and candidates traveling to Trump’s Florida resort earlier their year seeking his support.
The former speaker lamented Republicans gaining seats in the House in the 2020 election but being left powerless in Washington after losing the presidency and control of the Senate under Trump. He said “it was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end.”
Yet Ryan’s comments come as Trump has continued to control the Republican Party since leaving office, thanks to overwhelming support among the party infrastructure. Trump plans to play a king-maker role supporting and opposing candidates in the 2022 midterm election races that will determine which party controls Congress, and he’s also holding out the prospect of running again in 2024.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found that 85% of Republicans would prefer to see candidates who most agree with Trump, and 66% want to see him run again. Even so, when Democrats and independents are included, the result is that two thirds don’t want to see Trump run, 66% to 30%.
Asked to respond to Ryan’s comments, Trump senior adviser Jason Miller said, “Who is Paul Ryan?”
Ryan decided not to seek re-election in 2018, after his relationship with Trump soured. When Democrats won control of the House that year, Nancy Pelosi took over as speaker.
Conservatives have an opportunity to move beyond Trump’s style of politics by capitalizing on dissatisfaction from voters who chose President Joe Biden because they wanted a “nice guy who would move to the center and depolarize our politics,” he instead has pursued a “leftist” agenda, Ryan said.
“We’re now seeing how one-party rule from the left holds up in a center-right country,” Ryan said.
But Ryan is warning conservatives “not to get caught up in every little cultural battle” because some of the fights are “just creations of outrage peddlers, detached from reality” that distract from more important causes and policy.
“Culture matters, yes, but our party must be defined by more than a tussle over the latest grievance or perceived slight,” Ryan said. “We must not let them take priority over solutions – grounded in principle – to improve people’s lives.”
Conservatives will fail if they follow liberals into identify politics, mistake fighting culture wars for an agenda and “because we gave too much allegiance to one passing political figure and weren’t loyal enough to our principles” -- a reference to Trump.
The “Time for Choosing” series features speeches from potential 2024 GOP candidates Mike Pence, the former vice president, on June 24 and former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on July 26. Other speakers later this year include Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.
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