As the possibility of a contested Republican convention in Cleveland appears more and more real, this already very interesting political campaign may continue to be so. If Donald Trump fails to obtain the necessary 1,237 delegates to automatically become the party’s nominee, what might occur in Cleveland would be unpredictable. This has been a campaign year that has defied all predictions and additional surprises may be in store.
A recently popular hope is that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will rescue the party from its disarray and become the nominee in a contested convention. While this potentiality may be unlikely and may lead to the disaffection of strong Trump and Cruz supporters, Republicans should recognize that Paul Ryan is a model for conservatism’s success in the future. If Republicans spurn politicians like Ryan and choose figures like Trump and Cruz, the party may find itself in a political wilderness, unable to succeed on a national ticket for years to come.
Paul Ryan has consistently proven himself to be a pragmatic, yet principled conservative. He has proven willing to reach across the aisle and forge necessary compromises with Democrats. He enjoys debating the merits or prudence of policy, largely eschewing the grandstanding, hyperbole, and inflated rhetoric all too common among politicians of both parties. He may have ambitions, but he has not overzealously sought positions of influence. Rather, his high reputation and strong performance have prompted Republicans to choose him, most notably, as House Speaker. He is respectful, deliberate and capable of growth.
For example, a couple of weeks ago he rejected his previous language about “makers” and “takers,” recognizing that it was not fair to refer to those trapped in poverty as “takers.” Most politicians do not apologize for past actions and admit to have evolved in the manner he did.
In short, he has proven himself a model for what politicians should be. America could do with a great deal less demagoguery and demonizing of our political opponents and more sensible, intelligent debates about what policies will best serve the interests of the American people.
While Paul Ryan’s brand of conservatism may be the only kind that can attract mainstream support in the future, it may be unable to save the Republican Party in the immediate future. Though some expect him to emerge as the party’s nominee, several obstacles stand in the way of that.
First, Ryan did not run for president this year. His swooping in to claim the mantle of nominee at the convention without being on the ballot in the primaries would likely seem unsettlingly antidemocratic to many. However, when the people’s unadulterated choice is Donald Trump, perhaps some checks on democracy are in order.
Furthermore, both Ryan and party leaders have disclaimed the possibility of drafting someone who did not run. In addition, we cannot predict what the delegates would do in a contested convention. Perhaps enough Cruz delegates would bolt to Trump, netting him the nomination; perhaps the opposite.
The idea that Paul Ryan would be introduced as a compromise candidate is somewhat far-fetched, but it is not impossible, especially given the unexpected path this election has thus far taken.
The Republican Party appears to be lost in a quagmire. It is hopelessly divided internally and segments of the party continue to alienate various ethnic and social groups.
The Republican coalition is loose and uneasy alliance of fiscal conservatives, evangelicals, social conservatives, and libertarians. The differing foci of each of those groups has made the party something of a motley crew, forcing Congressional Republicans to try to satisfy these differing and sometimes contradictory elements of the party. In trying to appear all things to all people, the national party organization has ultimately satisfied none of these groups.
The party was already ripe for implosion before Mr. Trump hacked it to pieces (though he claims to be unifier). It may be that the Republican Party is no longer capable of being unified. We may hope for Paul Ryan to be our Moses, and lead the party out of Egypt, but this may be too optimistic.
The intelligent move for Republicans would be to rally behind Paul Ryan for president and support his brand of staid, thoughtful conservatism. Yet the party had the opportunity to choose a sensible deliberate candidate in the primaries but instead thronged to two polarizing demagogic figures. Ryan may be the white knight for conservatism’s future, but even he cannot save a party committed to its own political self-destruction.
Brian McCarty is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.