It’s not too strong to say that Jeb Bush and the dynasty he represents were humiliated by Donald Trump, so it’s really not a surprise that neither his father nor his brother will be making the trek to Cleveland to watch The Donald’s coronation as the head of the party. In retrospect, Jeb probably wishes he hadn’t abased himself further by endorsing Ted Cruz. Considering what Trump has said about Mitt Romney and John McCain, it’s not surprising that they won’t be in Cleveland, either. Of the last five Republican nominees, only Bob Dole plans to attend the convention, and that’s probably because he decided the greater evil was Ted Cruz.
All of that astonishing shunning pales in comparison to the spectacle of the Speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Cleveland convention refusing to endorse his own party’s nominee.
On Wednesday morning, not even 24 hours after Donald Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination, Paul Ryan convened his top advisers for a call. With Congress out of session, Ryan was bouncing between multiple states, raising the piles of money needed to keep House Republicans in the majority. But Donald Trump was on his mind. The speaker could not — at least at this point — support him. And he wanted to talk through how to proceed.
Ryan never expected Trump to lock up the nomination so quickly. He didn’t think Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would drop out of the race in May. In fact, Ryan’s orbit was preparing for a contested convention in Cleveland, where he is slated to serve as chairman, effectively the emcee of the Trump coronation.
The decision was made quickly. The next day, he would go on CNN and make it official, in no uncertain terms.
You can watch the video here of Speaker Paul Ryan telling Jake Tapper of CNN that he cannot endorse Donald Trump at this time.
Then Trump fired back at Ryan, issuing a statement:
“I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!”
I see a lot of progressive commentary in posts and comments that assumes that the Republicans will unify around Trump because they don’t like Hillary Clinton and they always unite after grumbling at the end primary season. But this isn’t remotely like anything that has happened in the past. The world has tilted on its axis and we’re going to have to adjust to a new reality where Republicans and conservatives do not behave the way we’ve come to expect that they will.
Paul Ryan isn’t just refusing to endorse Trump; he’s not just giving permission for his entire House Republican caucus to not endorse Trump; he’s actually putting pressure on his colleagues to keep their distance if they want to protect their conservative credentials.
George McGovern had problems with union leaders and urban bosses, but he never had to endure disrespect on this level. Speaker Carl Albert didn’t refuse to endorse him or lead a revolt against his nomination in the House. He’d seen enough of party disunity as chairman of the 1968 convention in Chicago.
You may recall that I’ve been raising the prospect for a long time that this election would not be another where the floor for each party is 45% and the whole thing is a fight over turnout. I’ve been raising the prospect that one side or the other would decisively win the argument and that we were headed for a landslide. Most often, I’ve predicted that the landslide would favor the Democrats, but I was less confident in that than in the prediction that things would have to snap in one direction or another because the gridlock could not hold.
I think we know that’s going to be true, now, and it still looks like the Democrats are going to be the winners.