WASHINGTON, April 30, 2016 — With Donald Trump moving closer to the GOP nomination, Paul Ryan has ramped up his attempts to take control of the party. The political rift between the establishment Ryan and outsider Trump seems unbridgeable. Each acknowledges the antiestablishment mood in the party, but that is the only thing they agree on.
The two leaders are strong, opposing voices within the Republican Party. The tension between them may be temporarily submerged when Trump clinches the nomination, but a heated battle will ensue if Trump defeats likely Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton in November.
Trump’s style is no-holds-barred, New York brash; Ryan prefers a clubbier, middle-America style. Trump lacks a coherent political ideology. Ryan has spent most of his adult life honing conservative philosophy and ideas. Trump rose to power through celebrity and money. Ryan did it with ideas and laboriously built connections, rising at a young age to an important House chairmanship. Trump’s campaign is fueled by anger at the government. Ryan is attempting to repair public trust in Congress, whose approval rating is still a dismal 17 percent.
Trump’s supporters see his business experience and strong personality as the answer to a government that is too big and corrupt. They believe he is the one man who can enter the White House and make things happen. Trump promises to take on the lobbyists and political insiders who have corrupted Washington.
Ryan also wants to restore confidence in government, but by reducing its size and scope.
The coming confrontation between the two has been brewing all year. Ryan said that Trump disfigured American values when he called for a ban on all Muslims from the U.S. Ryan has refused to support Trump but continues to promise that he will support whoever becomes the Republican nominee.
Ryan would be the counterbalance to Trump’s authoritarian approach. Trump promised he would rework the rules of the Republican primary nominating system. However, Ryan told a crowd at Georgetown University that he would work toward dramatically reducing the power of the president.
Ryan’s emergence in the media is seen as a sign of his true political ambitions. The media attention could help him gain support in a brokered convention if he throws his hat into the ring. Washington insiders worry that if Trump is the nominee, the Republicans will lose control of the Senate, and possibly the House. A Ryan candidacy would be an attempt to prevent that.
Ryan and Trump are on a collision course, and that leaves the Republican brand undecided. The part of the Party that backs Trump is a party of protest; the part of the Party behind Ryan is a party of incremental reform. It continues to struggle to demonstrate that, on the national level, it can be a true governing party.
If Trump wins the election, he will face heavy resistance as he attempts to keep his political promises. A Trump presidency will not sit well with Congress, which is still largely a club of insiders. They have watched him grow from flashy media mogul to loud and vulgar political candidate, and like Ryan, they don’t like it.
Trump hasn’t won his party nomination yet, but if he does, and if he wins the White House, the seeds he’s sowing now are the crop he’ll reap next year. He’ll face a hostile Congress, whether it is run by Republicans or Democrats. Trump’s agenda isn’t Ryan’s, whether the policy is immigration or Social Security reform. Now that he’s the all but certain nominee, we’ll have to see a new, conciliatory side of Donald Trump playing nice with Paul Ryan, or we can expect to see an isolated and ineffectual Trump in 2017.