Paul Ryan protest photo courtesy of HippiePoet.
The best part of the ridiculous wall-to-wall coverage of the Donald Trump/Paul Ryan summit meeting last Thursday was the boisterous protest by Dreamers outside the Republican National Committee building. Immigrants-rights activists came bearing taco bowls, and solemnly laid a stuffed elephant to rest in a coffin bearing the sign RIP GOP.
The GOP is still trying to come to terms, as it must, with Trump, its mortifying presumptive nominee. Ryan is holding out on his endorsement for now. But it can’t go on much longer.
The House Speaker will have his moment, staring off into the distance and doing his best impression of a principled, visionary leader for the future. But a return to Ryan-style trickle-down economics is not the forward-looking plan the Republicans need.
People who live in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville understand that.
The most passionate reaction Trump got in his Janesville was when he mentioned Ryan—and the crowd booed. Ryan did nothing to protect workers who lost jobs when the local GM plant closed. True, he tried to blame the plant closing on President Obama—who wasn’t even in office yet when GM pulled up stakes and moved production to Mexico. But Ryan supported the trade deals that cost Janesville workers their jobs. And he went on to oppose extending unemployment benefits after his constituents lost 30 to 50 percent of the district’s manufacturing jobs.
No wonder Trump was a hit, and Ryan a villain, in Janesville!
The real problem for Republicans like Ryan is not that Trump is a gauche idiot. Sure, he’s a racist loudmouth who drowns out the subtler racism behind Ryan’s talk about the safety net becoming a “hammock” with blaring, Archie Bunker-style bigotry.
But the bigger problem for Ryan’s GOP is that Trump supporters have seen through their trickle-down hokum. They know those rich guys who want to offshore their jobs do not have their best interests at heart. They are not fooled by Ryan’s fast-talking PowerPoint presentation, with which he purports to show that cutting taxes on the rich and corporations and taking an axe to unemployment benefits, Food Stamps, and Medicare will make all Americans better off.
Back when Ryan was travelling his district holding town hall meetings on his “Path to Prosperity” budget plan, a lot of grandmothers in tennis shoes gathered outside one of his events in Kenosha to protest his Medicare voucher plan.
Florence Hammelew, who worked for Catholic Social Services until she retired, said she was celebrating her 70th birthday by protesting Paul Ryan's budget plan. “He wants to put us at the mercy of the private health insurance corporations with their outrageous CEO compensation,” Hammelew said.
Sandra Lepisto, a retired teacher who now works as a substitute in Ryan's district, carried a sign that said: “For the Very Wealthy, This is a Path to Even More Prosperity.”
Those grandmas in tennis shoes were onto Ryan early on.
Now, so are the Trump voters.
Ryan is not all that worried that Trump, the carnival barker, is his party’s nominee. His bigger worry is that his own brand of snake oil isn’t selling.
Ruth Conniff is editor-in-chief of The Progressive.