Does Paul Ryan really want (or need) to be the GOP Convention chair?

We’re still hearing concerns expressed among Democrats that the supporters of Bernie Sanders will make a mess of things at their convention in Philadelphia. The proceedings could get extremely ugly if the young upstarts get out of hand and they’ve demonstrated in the past that they aren’t shy about fomenting some violence in the streets. It’s just a shame when one party allows their radical members to get so far out of control that the public is put in danger, isn’t it?

I’m old enough to remember the bad old days when similar fears were being expressed over the upcoming GOP convention in Cleveland. That must have been way back in… well, last month, actually. But now there are new questions furrowing the brows of the GOP elders. Will we have a unified front at the big festival? There are still prominent figures in the party who aren’t exactly onboard with the presumptive nominee and if things get unpleasant it could start off the final leg of the race on a sour note. With that in mind I went back and read over one editorial at the Christian Science Monitor from about a week ago which raises the question of one of Mr. Trump’s most high profile doubters: Paul Ryan.

As tradition holds, the Speaker is set to be the co-chairman at the convention and lead most of the main stage activities. But he still hasn’t really gotten behind Trump. It would make for some awkward moments if they can’t find a way to light up the old peace pipe together.

Is Paul Ryan trying to get kicked out of his gig as co-chair of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July?

Maybe he is. That could explain why on Monday the House speaker said he’d step down from his highly visible convention leadership spot if presumptive nominee Donald Trump asks.

“He’s the nominee. I’ll do whatever he wants with respect to the convention,” Speaker Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Ryan’s not a Trump backer, after all – at least, not yet. In an extraordinary disavowal of an all-but-certain party nominee, Ryan last week said he’s “not ready” to support Mr. Trump in the general election.

Despite suggestions that Donald Trump is Mr. Republican now, that’s not at all clear. While he seems to be solidifying his support as the nominee among GOP voters quite nicely, Trump remains off on his own island when it comes to several issues near and dear to the base in general and Paul Ryan in particular. Free trade deals, military interventionism, entitlement reform and taxes are all areas where there’s a disconnect. So how comfortable will Ryan be playing emcee for a party which should really focus on singing Trump’s praises and setting the stage for the final battle for the White House?

The problem here is that there don’t seem to be any good options on the table. If Trump were to ask Ryan to step down (unlikely at this point) it would be a clear sign of divisions in the party and the press would have a field day with it. If the Speaker makes a point of hedging on stage and qualifying his introductions with comments like, “while we don’t see eye to eye on everything,” it sets pretty much the same tone. But Paul Ryan is crystal clear on his own policy positions and has never made any bones about it. If he remains silent and simply acts as a cheerleader for the nominee it won’t exactly be a shining moment on his resume.

Still, the third option is probably the best. He doesn’t need to endorse all of Trump’s policies. He simply needs to be supportive of his candidacy and focus on the need to beat Hillary Clinton (if she’s not in jail) in November. Hopefully that’s how this plays out, and if the Sanders supporters wind up burning down the City of Brotherly Love, the media will be too busy to pay too much attention to our convention anyway.

Paul Ryan

David Strom 4:41 PM on September 26, 2022