Good Luck Convincing Paul Ryan To Stop Supporting Trump

by Seth Millstein
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Every time the Trump administration finds itself plagued with another controversy, Democrats and Republicans alike wonder if there's anything — anything at all — that might convince Paul Ryan to stop supporting President Trump. Although the speaker of the House has been a steadfast Trump ally for the better part of a year, many believe that this support is reluctant, and that sooner or later, Ryan will break ranks, go rogue, and turn on Trump. But what would cause the Wisconsin lawmaker to reach that point?

Nobody knows the answer to that question except for him, but there are two different interpretations of his actions, each of which would suggest a different "breaking point" for Ryan.

By the first interpretation, which is purely speculation, Ryan is a well-intentioned man who's entered an unholy alliance with Trump, whom he secretly loathes, in the hopes that Trump will help advance Ryan's policy goals in Congress. Those goals consist primarily of slashing the social safety net and cutting taxes for rich people. And indeed, the health care bill that Ryan shepherded through the House of Representatives does both of those things in great degrees.

If this is what's driving Ryan, then the answer to the question of when he'll turn on Trump is relatively straightforward: Ryan will ditch Trump if and when Trump drops his support for Ryan's policies. If Trump were to unveil a tax proposal, for example, that jacked up rates for the wealthiest Americans, or a single-payer health care bill, one can easily imagine Ryan dropping Trump like a hot potato. That said, there's no evidence that Trump is moving in that direction, or evidence that this is definitely Ryan's intention.

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The second way to look at Ryan's support for Trump is that, far from being a reluctant convert, he's simply an earnest supporter of Trump and Trump's vision for America. It's true that Ryan's personal style is the polar opposite of Trump's, and that unlike Trump, he has a basic grasp of how public policy works. But really, that's where the differences end, because ever since endorsing Trump in June, Ryan has been a loyal and steadfast supporter of the man. Amidst all of Trump's scandals and lies, both before and after the election, Ryan has continued to work with him and support his administration.

If this is the case, it's difficult to guess what might compel Ryan to abandon Trump. That said, if it becomes clear that the president is a legitimate liability to the rest of the Republican Party, it's not hard to imagine Ryan backing away, if only for his own political survival. A major test of this will be the upcoming special elections in Georgia and Montana, two states that voted for Trump but, five months later, might just end up electing Democrats to Congress. If Democrats win in either state, many Republicans might well conclude that Trump is a threat to the GOP's hold on its base. Given that there's a midterm election next year, that could conceivably convince Ryan — who's the leader of Congressional Republicans, after all — to finally get off the Trump Train.

But all of this is pure speculation. Republicans, as the old saying goes, fall in line, and it's just as possible that Ryan will stick with Trump until his dying day.