WASHINGTON, May 6, 2016 — Donald Trump may have won the Republican presidential nomination, but he has not yet wooed the party.
House Speaker Paul Ryan this week said he is “not ready” to endorse Trump, who he says has not shown himself to be “a standard-bearer who bears our standard.” During an interview on CNN, Ryan discussed his differences with Trump over the tone and direction of the party, then said it is time for party unification. He urged Trump to set aside bullying and belittlement and offer a more hopeful, inclusive and aspirational message.
Stylistically, the two Republican leaders are on different planets. Trump is a no-holds barred, New York politician while Paul Ryan is an establishment leader who prefers a clubbier, Middle-America style.
They also differ ideologically. Ryan cites Trump’s lack of coherent political ideology as reason to not support a Trump presidency. He has also claimed that Trump’s campaign is fueled by anger at the government, but not by true policy rationale.
Ryan’s comments are just the latest salvo between the two men. Earlier this year, Ryan said that Trump disfigured American values when he called for a ban on all Muslims from the U.S. He also criticized Trump for his suggestion that his supporters might riot if Trump is denied the nomination.
Ryan, like other GOP leaders, find themselves in a difficult position. They are likely trying to protect their roles in the party, which has serious reservations about Trump, and ensure re-election by their conservative constituents. At the same time, refusing to back the Republican nominee is a political quagmire that likely will only help the Democratic candidate and fuel divisions in the party.
If the establishment fails to back Trump, the party will face a split that will be hard to heal and will reduce the odds of a Republican success in November. Even if the two sides to briefly paper over their differences to win victory in November, the fissure will almost certainly open if Trump wins the presidency, raising still more challenges for the party.