by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Now Paul Ryan is announcing that he’s retiring — after saying “I ain’t going anywhere” in December — and the outlook for Republicans is grim, both in the 2018 midterms and beyond. Back then, our former colleague Tim Alberta reported, “Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over ‘micro-tactics,’ and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center.” The House GOP was always fractious and divided at the best of times, and since January 2017, Ryan’s been trying to work with a Senate that requires 60 votes. By July, the House of Representatives had passed a slew of big bills, only to watch them slowly die in the Senate. He’s also trying to work with a president who flips from priority to priority (DACA! Guns! North Korea! Syria! Opioids! Infrastructure!) and a constantly-changing White House staff. It’s hard to generate any sustained momentum for key legislation. …
… Ryan is like a perennial All-Star who never quite enjoyed the ideal circumstances to shine. He always seemed to attract a disproportionate amount of mockery and disdain for what he was actually trying to do. Those scoffing “good riddance” to Ryan now probably ought to look back at John Boehner and Dennis Hastert. Ryan’s younger, a better communicator, more telegenic and even more of a policy wonk than his predecessors and most of his potential successors.
The guy who liberals depicted throwing granny off the cliff . . . was also the kind of man goes into drug treatment centers, touches the scars from the “track marks” of heroin addicts, and prays with and for them. He was portrayed as some sort of heartless Ayn Rand acolyte when he emphasized how conservatives needed to find solutions for poverty. He was civil, well-informed, polite, and firm, the opposite of a table-pounding, demagogic extremist, and that probably just aggravated his critics on the left even more.