In the case of a Clinton presidency — which is looking increasingly likely — it’s important to have a GOP House majority to frustrate her agenda. It’s also essential for keeping the conservative dream alive. While Trump will almost certainly lose, the goal is to prevent a down-ballot disaster that would erase the gains the GOP has made in past election cycles.
This is why Ryan has told his members to “do what you need to do” with regard to endorsing or not endorsing Trump. Each member can do what’s best, given the political dynamics in their own district, hopefully saving as many seats as possible. Try to keep Trump’s brand and the GOP’s brand as disassociated as possible — criticize Trump whenever he does something truly insane — but don’t risk splitting the party by un-endorsing him.
In other words: In a very difficult, destructive time, save what can be saved. And if compromises with honor have to be made, so be it.
Let me be clear: I don’t like this situation. It’s a stain on Paul Ryan’s reputation, and on the GOP’s reputation, that he has abandoned his own principles. But I’m not a politician, and it costs me nothing to denounce Trump full-throatedly. Honor without cost is easy. What Paul Ryan is doing is hard.