On election day and for the following week, House Speaker Paul Ryan was exuberant about Donald Trump in a way he hasn’t been for the last year and a half. Ryan endorsed Trump for the presidency, but he spent far more time criticizing the Republican nominee than he did supporting him. After the Access Hollywood tape came out, Ryan told top members of Congress that he was done defending Trump and that Republicans up for re-election should do what they have to do, even if it meant running against the nominee.
Personalities aside, Ryan and Trump don’t necessarily have an identical vision for the future of the country. Economically speaking, Ryan is far more conservative than Trump. You won’t, for instance, hear Ryan talking down our free trade deals or ruminating about a trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Culturally speaking, Trump is the conservative. His ideas on immigration and terrorism ride a far more hardline theme than those of the House Speaker.
The question then becomes: Can these two work together? And if they can’t, whose agenda will we see become reality?
Hopefully, the answer to the first question will be yes and we won’t have to find out the answer to the latter one.
While Trump and Ryan don’t see eye to eye on every issue, this election proved that Rebublican voters are not chained to the three-legged stool of Reagan conservatism. The results don’t mean that they’ve completely abandoned those principles, either, though. Yes, Trump won, but how many voters picked him because the alternative was Hillary Clinton? His victory means something, but both Trump and Ryan should be careful about assuming what that something is before we start talking about who has what mandate.
Here’s what can’t happen: Republicans can’t carry their “obstructionist” label over to a Trump presidency. Yes, they should stand for conservatism where they can, but they will pay a harsh electoral penalty if they treat Trump as though he were the new Obama. Of course, Trump can help them out by working WITH Congress rather than trying to work against them.
We have a historic opportunity here. Hopefully, Trump and Ryan both understand how important it is to take advantage of it.