Is Ryan’s Exit the End of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party?

Paul Ryan’s announcement Wednesday that he is not running for re-election from his hitherto safe district in Wisconsin, coming as it did amidst the media-fueled fires of James Comey, Robert Mueller and all the other Stormy Danielses circling the Trump Administration, was the most underappreciated development of the day. Not necessarily because the Speaker of the House, an odd combination of Eddie Munster and Eddie Haskell, is stepping down to spend more time with his family, but because—no matter what happens to Trump—the real future of the Republican Party is now up for grabs.

I coined the term “Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party” to describe the unholy bond between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, who have long existed in a kind of incestuous, sado-masochistic relationship in which each of them knows their place and, after a fashion, enjoys it.

On the one hand we have the largely regnant Evil Party, congressionally ascendant during the long reign of FDR and Harry Truman, which has since the 1970s gradually morphed into the anti-American “progressive” party devoted to perverting the Constitution and undermining the foundational principles of the republic in the name of discovering their “real,” if occult meaning. And on the other, the Stupid Party, which never met a promise it didn’t want to dishonor, a foreign war it didn’t want to fight, or a domestic fight it didn’t want to throw.

Despite his promising beginning as a policy wonk and charter member of the “Young Guns,” Ryan had become the face of the BPFP, a man who believed in the correctness of his policies but who never enjoyed being the tip of the spear—much less being on the receiving end of one. With all eyes and hopes upon him in 2012, there he was, sitting calmly by as a gibbering idiot named Joe Biden grimaced and guffawed his way through the vice-presidential debate, showering Ryan with sucker punches and spitballs and getting absolutely no payback in return.

When Ryan reluctantly stepped into the speaker’s chair owing to John Boehner’s sudden retirement, he had another chance to show he had the stomach, if not the appetite, for political combat, not to mention for the third-highest office in the land. But after promising to end Obamacare upon his party’s return to congressional dominance, he failed to deliver. The two wave elections of 2010 and 2014 gave the GOP what it said it needed… and nothing happened. And at that moment, the junior wing of the BPFP was doomed.

Donald Trump’s chain-saw massacre of a field of mostly standard-issue candidates spoiled the Republicans’ chances of scoring the trifecta of ineptitude, and now the 2016 election has claimed its latest victim in the soon-to-be-former speaker. Who saw that coming?

Several Lifetimes
I’ve been skeptical since January about the coming “blue wave,” which still strikes me as a wish-fulfillment fantasy which the Left and the Trump-hating accommodationists clutch tightly to their breasts like blankies. Yes, it’s true that a relatively high number of incumbent Republican House members (46) are opting out, and anything can happen. But the structural nature of the congressional districts still favors the GOP even if—as it often does—it runs Mr. Ed against the Democrat. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats are defending 25 seats against the GOP’s eight, many of them deep in the heart of Trump Country. In any case, the election is still more than seven months away, and in the Donald’s America, that is several lifetimes and a world war or two away.

So who replaces Ryan? The restive members of the House Freedom Caucus, who largely despised Ryan and the rest of “leadership,” would no doubt like to see one of their own with the gavel in hand, perhaps current chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Of the moderate Young Guns, Eric Cantor was unhorsed in 2014 by Dave Brat (now a member of the HFC), which pretty much leaves Kevin McCarthy, currently House majority leader, who no doubt would dearly love the speakership. Another possible candidate is Steve Scalise, who was grievously wounded by the Bernie Bro who shot up the Republicans’ baseball game in June.

Of these, Scalise strikes me as the favorite at the moment, not simply because of his personal grit and heroism in coming back from a life-threatening assassination attempt by a deranged Leftist, but because while he is with “leadership” (he’s the majority whip) he’s not really of “leadership” in the way the ambitious but standard-issue McCarthy is. This assumes, of course, that the Republicans hold the House. But if they do—and if they choose their new speaker correctly—then they will finally have a chance to shake the label of the Stupid Party and destroy the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party.

A Failed Model
For far too long, Americans have not really had a meaningful choice of political philosophies; it’s why Sanders did so well in the primaries (and would have won had not the fix been in) and why Trump won. The media have devoted the past 16 months trying to convince Americans they made a horrible mistake in 2016, and Ryan & Co. have done absolutely nothing to disabuse them of that notion—not by their tepid support of the president, but by their only-grown-up-in-the-room demeanor that seemed defiantly at odds with Trump’s let’s-blow-the-damn-thing-up approach to governance.

That “measured” mode has clearly failed; Trump may be a minority president, but he’s rapidly gaining control of the party after his hostile takeover. Only Ryan, for example, could have passed something as important and beneficial to the average American as the tax cut and yet received zero political or personal credit for it; indeed, to hear the superannuated Annunciata d’Alesandro Pelosi tell it, the tax cuts were one of the worst assaults on the average American since George Washington led a militia against the Whiskey Rebellion. Ryan also got tarred with the dreadful omnibus spending bill, which Trump signed and is now repenting of at leisure.

A new speaker could campaign for the gavel by promising the members a clean repeal of Obamacare and getting a grip on spending. He could also clearly delineate—and, hopefully, articulate—the Republicans’ winning stance on tight borders, legal immigration, a strong military, and a booming economy. Those are the things, after all, that got Trump elected. And, most of all, he could stop caring what the Democrats and their media shills think.

Then again, the new speaker could well be Pelosi. In which case, the Republicans would be back in their accustomed position of bottom dog, taking it and liking it as impeachment gets rolling, spending soars even more, immigration increases, and zombie Obamacare barnacles itself ever more tightly to the American political system. The choice will be made this fall.

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Photo credit:  Win McNamee/Getty Images

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About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules (Photo credit: Peter Duke Photo)