The Wall Street Journal, which once stood in favor of free trade and a libertarian view of immigration, is fighting mad that some Republicans don’t want Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to swing behind 2016 Republican nominee Donald Trump. And to prove it, they’ve now written the most incoherent, ridiculous editorial in their long and illustrious history.
Their basic take seems to be that Ryan must back Trump or risk losing his House majority – and that it’s the #NeverTrump’s fault that Trump became the nominee in the first place. Yes, seriously.
The Journal begins its editorial with this laugh-out-loud line:
Many of the same people who paved the way for Donald Trump are now trying to excommunicate from polite conservative company the men in the best position to minimize the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s damage. That’s the only way to read the conservative journalists who are joining Democrats in denouncing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying they would vote for Mr. Trump, albeit without embracing his rhetoric or all of his agenda. This has offended various Beltway grandees who are lecturing the two leaders that they have besmirched their good names, and for all time.
Let’s be clear: the politics of The Wall Street Journal had far more to do with Trump’s rise than the conservatives of Ted Cruz’s ilk who opposed Trump. I have personally witnessed a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board say that the 2014 Republican landslide had nothing to do with immigration. I’ve seen Wall Street Journal writers advocate against social conservatives and in favor of a Trumpist rhetoric (“Ted Cruz is the guy who made Donald Trump look tolerant and statesmanlike”). The Wall Street Journal cheered along as a Republican Congress signed deal after deal with President Obama, blasted Cruz’s government shutdown, and generally mirrored the Republican establishment moderation that voters heartily rejected in this election cycle.
But the Journal blames conservatives for Trump. And they simultaneously blame those ripping Ryan for backing Trump destroying the GOP. In other words, they say they despise and fear Trump and understand that his nomination means a real shot at electoral disaster, but those who say they despise and fear Trump and fear an electoral disaster if Republican leaders embrace Trump are the real problem.
Here’s the Journal:
Political leaders have to consider the consequences of their actions for their institutions. For Messrs. Ryan and McConnell, this means preserving GOP majorities as a check against either Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton. Conservative pundits say Mr. Trump has authoritarian tendencies, but then they should want principled leaders in positions of power to restrain him…There’s no guarantee Mr. Trump would agree to Mr. Ryan’s agenda, but there’s no chance if Mr. Ryan publicly refuses to vote for him. The Speakership is the second most powerful elected position in Washington. We’d rather have a free-trade, pro-immigration reformer like Mr. Ryan in that position than a Trumpian yes-man.
In order to achieve this, they say, we need a Trumpian yes-man.
This is the Journal blasting a strawman with a flamethrower. Nobody in the #NeverTrump crowd has called for ousting Ryan. Nobody wants Republicans to lose their House majority. But we’re noting that Ryan’s endorsement of Trump – without receiving any concessions in return – denotes first, that Ryan won’t stand up to Trump when the time comes, and second, that Ryan will be lumped together with Trump come election time, to the detriment of the possibility of a House majority. Trump doesn’t just lack coattails. He has negative coattails.
The Journal concludes:
It isn’t clear what Mr. Ryan’s critics want him to do in any event. Do they really expect a House Speaker to deny support to the GOP nominee, making the Trump-Ryan division a running story through November? There’s nothing like a bloody Republican civil war to dampen turnout and produce an election rout for the other side.
Well, there is something likely to dampen turnout: Trump’s candidacy, enthusiastically backed by Paul Ryan and The Wall Street Journal. Standing apart from Trump is the only hope for many members of Congress who will be slammed with Trump questions from here until election day. And as Renee Ellmers just found out, having Trump’s support means less than nothing when Americans go to the ballot box.
The Journal suggests instead that Ryan should endorse Trump but still criticize him, ignoring the awkwardness of the last 72 hours. This is politically tone-deaf. But what’s worse is the Journal’s repeated insistence that those criticizing Ryan created Trump:
The criticism of Mr. Ryan comes with particular ill-grace from the conservatives who seeded the ground for Mr. Trump. Many of the most devout Never-Trumpers have spent years fanning grassroots hostility against immigration and Mexicans. They also blocked Mr. Ryan’s efforts to reach a compromise on immigration reform to secure the border while recognizing the needs of the U.S. labor market. Mr. Trump saw his chance to hijack their softer hostility with his “wall” and mass deportation, and now these conservatives profess to be shocked that he is taking his ethnic broadsides to new lows.
To the Journal, there were only two choices: the Journal, and Trump. When Trump won, the Journal conceded. But they forget: there was a third choice. Conservatives have and had a right to be angry at the federal government’s ridiculous incentivization of illegal immigration. They have and had a right to oppose Ryan’s immigration reform plan. Those of us who want a wall built on the border can still oppose Trump – and we’re not to blame for Trump’s insidious racism. Trump is to blame for that. And if anybody is to blame for the success of Trump’s reactionary program, it’s the establishment that pooh-poohed the concerns of Trump voters while excoriating legitimate alternatives to Trump.
The Journal concludes by calling for unity, Ryan-style: “Those who want to preserve space for a better conservative politics should support politicians who share those beliefs, not engage in Trump-like purges.”
That’s rather ironic language coming from the same editorial board that just called actual conservatives traitors for not backing Trump. That’s not a Trump-like purge. That is a Trump purge.
But this shouldn’t be incredibly surprising given Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerry Baker’s statement to editors just two weeks ago that they needed to be “fair” to Trump. “Fairness” apparently means capitulation.