Ryan blasts 'identity politics,' stresses importance of institutions

Ryan blasts 'identity politics,' stresses importance of institutions
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday lamented the “deinstitutionalization of society” taking place in the world, praising institutions at large amid President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE's attacks on the Justice Department, media and global organizations.

Ryan, who is set to retire from Congress in January, did not directly address Trump during that portion of his remarks at a WisPolitics event in the Capitol, and the GOP leader was careful to note that no one person was to blame.

“I worry that we are seeing a deinstitutionalization of society writ large occurring in not just America but in the world,” Ryan said. “And, by the way, this isn’t one person who’s done this. It’s society, it’s culture, it’s the internet. It’s the 21st century.”

Ryan conceded that the extreme partisanship and tribalism that dominates today’s politics is extremely effective at turning out voters and winning elections, but said it was “morally wrong.”

“21st century technology has proven that tribalism and identity politics is effective. More to the point, which is worse, people make money off of it,” Ryan said. “Internet, money have proven identity politics and tribalism works. It’s politically effective. It’s morally wrong, but it’s politically effective.”

“What bothers me is it’s being practiced on both sides. The right and the left.”

During his time in the White House, Trump has faced backlash over his attacks against various long-standing institutions. He’s waged a war of words against the Justice Department and FBI, and called special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe into Russian collusion a “witch hunt.”

The president has also repeatedly blasted critical stories he doesn’t like as “fake news.” And he’s lashed out at allies in international organizations like NATO and the Group of 7, while praising the leaders of North Korea and Russia.

Ryan has not agreed with Trump’s attacks on those institutions, but he’s also refused to call Trump out directly.

As he prepares to step away from a nearly two-decade career in public office, Ryan, a protégé of former presidential candidate Jack Kemp, said he hopes to take time think about how to get America back to aspirational politics.

“I want to spend my time thinking about, how do you make inclusive, aspirational politics … strategically valuable? How do you make it so this is the winning thing, this is how you win elections,” he said.

“You literally have to figure out how to beat tribalism and show that it’s not just morally right but strategically right. We have a ways to go.”

--Updated at 7:21 p.m.