Reports suggested Thursday that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan plans to retire after the 2018 midterm elections.
Perhaps he fears his party will lose control of the House; perhaps he is simply tired of the thankless task of holding his caucus together while negotiating with the White House.
The irony is that of all the GOP leaders in Washington, Ryan should have been the last to quit. His was the one part of the establishment that delivered on voters’ priorities.
The truth is the establishment of both parties is hopelessly corrupt and long overdue for change. That is the message voters in both parties have been sending for years — though party leaders, and the Beltway media, refuse to hear it.
Conventional wisdom, for example, holds that Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama was a victory for the Republican establishment, which tried to undermine the prospects of the party’s own nominee for the U.S. Senate seat. But the party’s insurgents are more determined than ever to fight that establishment. And the truth is that without the early efforts of the establishment to sideline conservative Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), the seat would still be in GOP hands.
Many Democrats feel the same about their party — that if the Democratic National Committee had not rigged the party’s 2016 presidential primary in favor of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) might have won the nomination and the election. And he was a real threat. Though President Donald Trump dismisses him today as “crazy Bernie,” the septuagenarian socialist had an authentic connection with voters that rivaled Trump’s own.
It is a curious fact that the Obama presidency, for all its tumult, made absolutely no impact on the leadership of either party. The people in charge of Capitol Hill today, on both sides, are relics of the lame-duck years of the George W. Bush administration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in particular has clung to power within her caucus even after leading it to one defeat after another. She has marginalized and outlasted her rivals.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) earned his place in conservative history with his courageous stand against the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016. But he has failed to drive his party’s legislative agenda. He may push through tax reform, which is a Wall Street priority and has become a K Street project. But on the Main Street issues, like Obamacare and immigration, he has simply failed to deliver.
When a party leader cannot fulfill his or her promises, or unite the caucus, it is time to resign. That is what British Prime Minister David Cameron did last year when the voters approved Brexit. Though Cameron had restored the Conservative Party to power after more than a decade of Labour Party domination, his past victories did not mean he had a perpetual mandate to govern. He took the right and honorable course, and let new leadership emerge.
Likewise, McConnell should have resigned when he failed to deliver the votes to repeal Obamacare earlier this year. Former Speaker John Boehner should have done the same in late 2012, when it was clear that his caucus would not back his plans for dealing with the “fiscal cliff.” There would have been honor in those resignations. Instead, the only way GOP voters can get rid of a failing establishment is to see the party defeated at the polls.
A Democratic wave with new leaders would be unstoppable in 2018. Republicans should be grateful Democrats have failed to oust Pelosi. Even so, that may not be enough. It is well past time for others to follow Ryan’s example.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.