Paul Ryan

Politics is Not Governing: Storytelling in Trump’s America


Politics is not governing. A simple and fairly obvious statement. One which has been made ad nauseam in the days following the catastrophic failure of the American Health Care Act. A statement which is increasingly apparent to the Republican Party.

Factions, making outlandish statements for the sole purpose of media attention, and obstructionist actions are fine when you are the opposition party.  These actions made the Republican Party extremely successful under President Obama.

The Republican Party is not the opposition party. They are the majority party. They govern a unified government.

Well, “govern”.

This inability to effectively govern has highlighted an important issue for the Trump administration and the GOP. Seemingly lost in the stories about the failure of the American Health Care Act and how that legislation came to its demise is attention to the stories themselves.

The problem is not simply the articles about the GOP’s failure to pass President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. The problem is not journalists writing that Republicans have no idea how to govern and that as a consequence Paul Ryan needs to resign.

Taken in the moment these are articles about a single failure. A single failure is easily forgotten given it is followed by success. Or had been proceeded by success. A single failure can be the anomaly. When failure becomes, or is, the narrative, however, that is when a single failure is the beacon of a much larger problem.

President Trump and the Republican Party have a big problem.

Being the minority party means obstructionism and attention-seeking via whatever means necessary. Campaigning is rhetoric, promises and exploitative bushwhacking. In a word, politics. In two words, not governing.

In fact, this is essentially the opposite of governing. Consider Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent victory.

Make ridiculous statements which are readily proved demonstrably false. Draw attention to yourself by whatever means necessary. Establish strength when in public. Find your specific audience and speak to that audience at every opportunity in order to invigorate those supporters and strengthen their opinion of you.

This strategy won Donald Trump the election. But he did so without the popular vote. Without winning over new votersWithout winning over his own party.

A popular loss. A narrow Electoral College victory. Bipartisan apprehension regarding his legislative agenda. This strategy did not win Donald Trump a political mandate.

And the news following November 9th has not been any better.

Failed nomineesPotential ties to foreign governmentsProven ties to foreign governments. Alienating foreign leadersBipartisan condemnation of the President. Historically low approval ratings. A monumental defeat on President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. Doubt regarding the ability of the President to pass his next piece of major legislation. Or really any major legislation.

This succession of stories weaves a tale about President Trump and about the Republican Party. It’s a narrative. It’s a narrative of failure.

Not a single failure. Not successive failures. Simply failure.

When the narrative is failure, the narrative supposes future failure. And when future failure is supposed there is no hope for governing. Because governing requires support. Support requires the prospect of success. The prospect of success is nullified by the expectation of failure.

To illustrate this point a bit here is selection of recent media regarding the Trump administration, and the Republican Party. Apropos to President Trump, the selection is composed of tweets.

In summary, conservative news outlets/commentators/politicians criticizing the Republican Party generally, Paul Ryan specifically, and the legislation promoted by President Trump and GOP leadership. And also the President calling out his own party.

It’s a narrative. Politics instead of governing. Politics over governing.

Politics is not governing.

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After the Election: The Fight for Congress

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The nomination of Donald Trump to head the Republican Party resulted from a schism in the GOP. The course of the 2016 presidential election has only served to highlight these cracks. Trump has taken issue positions and made comments with which many within the Republican Party not only disagree but find offensive. Numerous notable Republicans have refused to endorse Donald Trump, even if they still plan to cast their vote for him. Although some have declared they will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some analysts have gone so far as to declare the end of the 2016 election season as the beginning of a GOP civil war. And others have predicted that the Republican Party as currently constituted will cease to exist, instead splitting into at least two distinct political parties.

The most likely scene of this GOP battle is Congress and the House of Representatives. Polarization has not only been increasing between parties but also within parties. While Republicans are united against Democrats, they do not always work in solidarity. The ideological gap between the more moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives and the most conservative wing of the GOP in the House was the highest ever for the modern Republican Party. Many consider the resignation of John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, to have been motivated by a group of dissident, highly conservative Republicans, the Freedom Caucus, who had threatened a no-confidence vote in his speakership.


Current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, may have a similar future. Although Ryan has made clear he plans to run for speaker, there are those who wish he wouldn’t. Ryan has been under fire for his criticism of Donald Trump, refusing to defend Trump in the wake of his lewd recording, turning his focus to House races instead of campaigning for Trump, and saying he would work with Hillary Clinton. Conversely, Ryan maintained his endorsement of Trump and voted for Trump. Yet this may not be enough for him to garner enough confidence within his own party to win the speaker race. And chatter has grown that instead of facing an unwinnable race, Paul Ryan will instead step down.

Now The Hill has provided more details and greater context on this developing story:

“But even some Ryan allies are conceding that the Speaker now finds himself in an untenable position after just a year on the job.

“It’s not just the usual Freedom Caucus members who are pushing for change at the top; some more mainstream Republicans from safe GOP districts could pull their support over Ryan’s handling of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, lawmakers said.

“The brash New York real estate mogul is enormously popular in many of these districts, but Ryan stopped actively supporting Trump after a recording surfaced of him talking in 2005 about groping and kissing women.

“The lawmaker noted that if the GOP majority shrinks, Ryan could lose next year’s floor vote to remain Speaker with a relatively small number of GOP defections…

“If Trump loses narrowly to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he and his die-hard loyalists will almost certainly try to pin some of the blame on Ryan.

‘“Those who talk to Paul say he is all in to stay Speaker…But if you talk to members from the South, many will struggle to vote for him — even though they like him — because their constituents are furious”‘ over his treatment of Trump…

“GOP sources said Ryan helped himself this week when he announced that he cast an early ballot for Trump.

“But many Republicans are still fuming over a House GOP conference call last month during which Ryan told his colleagues he could no longer defend or campaign with Trump after news outlets published the recording of his lewd comments.

“Trump already took to Twitter to call Ryan a disloyal, “weak and ineffective” leader. On Thursday, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pencerepeatedly declined to say whether he thought his close friend, Ryan, deserved another term as Speaker…

“A Freedom Caucus member predicted that there is “a 25 percent chance Ryan is Speaker in the 115th Congress.”

‘”His unfavorability among Republicans is around 68 percent,”‘ the Freedom Caucus member said of Ryan. ‘”If Hillary wins, he will surely take a good share of the blame among Trump supporters.”‘

In other words, Paul Ryan is under fire for exercising rationality and common sense in his criticism of Donald Trump. Even though Ryan still endorsed Trump. And voted for him. And has been working to secure a GOP majority in the House amidst a Trump campaign which has potentially hurt down-ticket Republican races.

That is to say Paul Ryan may be replaced as Speaker of the House due to his efforts to keep the House united.

When a Cheesehead hugs an Orange: Or when Desperation Makes Strange Bedfellows

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Paul Ryan refused to endorse Donald Trump. Until he did. Albeit tentatively while admitting to keeping his options open. Once Ryan endorsed Trump’s nomination he simply decided to denounce him. Ryan has said he does not agree with the things Trump says and does, implied Trump was racist, spoke out against Trump’s proposed immigration policy, disagreed with Trump on NATO, disagreed with Trump on Russia and Vladimir Putin, spoke out against Trump’s treatment of the Khan family following the Democratic National Convention and generally insulted the Trump campaign.

Donald Trump refused to endorse Paul Ryan. Until he did. Albeit tentatively with seemingly the sole purpose of engendering favor with the Republican establishment. And Paul Ryan’s campaign did not seem thrilled with the endorsement. Donald Trump has implicitly denounced Paul Ryan by denouncing the Republican establishment. Donald Trump and Paul Ryan have nothing in common besides an “R”.

Paul Ryan is going to campaign with Donald Trump. Mainly to maintain a Congressional majority. Except he doesn’t really want you to know about the campaiging. Probably because to this point Ryan has generally avoided saying Trump’s name and in actuality doesn’t want Trump to win.

Paul Ryan also predicted a Hillary Clinton victory.

I totally believe you Donald Trump


Now that was sarcasm. Trump declared, confidently and multiple times even when given a chance to walk it back, that President Obama is the founder of ISIS. But he was being sarcastic. No, you weren’t. You were serious until you realized the comments backfired on you. Which is Trump’s modus operandi. Say crazy things to appeal to the people who enjoy when you say crazy things because you “tell it like it is”, until you get called on it by Republicans whose support you need.

The $400 million payment to Iran was ransom. It was a video and you reiterated what you saw. Until you didn’t. After your own campaign contradicted you. You said you wouldn’t endorse Paul Ryan or John McCain in their primaries. Until you did. Maybe that was all sarcasm as well. Or maybe it’s all part of “Taking Back” America.

You want to change positions, fine. People are allowed to change their minds. But Trump’s entire campaign is essentially based on unfalsifiable statements. Obama is founder of ISIS. Sarcasm. Not endorsing Republican candidates. Changed my mind. Hillary Clinton is crooked, even though she wasn’t convicted of anything. Rigged system. And it works. Because it can all be explained away if you want to.

Trump was asked if he made a mistake in attacking the family of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq. Trump’s response was, “You’ll have to define what a mistake means”. Which seems ridiculous, except unfalsifiable statements can’t be mistakes because they can’t be proved wrong.