Judd Gregg: Who wins with Paul Ryan’s departure?

Greg Nash

There has been considerable musing about the meaning of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) decision to leave Congress and the Speakership.

For the Freedom Caucus, it is seen as a victory in their mission: pursuing the conservative cause as they alone define it.

For the left, it is seen as another sign that there is a solid chance they will take back control of the House — and maybe even the Senate — in the next election. Of course, they must keep their fingers crossed that President Trump will continue to tweet them towards this victory.

The liberal pundits from CNN and the New York Times can also claim victory — another win in their all-consuming cause of muting the Republican Party’s control of the government.

{mosads}For the rest of us out here in the lands beyond the Beltway, it is a loss at considerable cost.

Paul Ryan was pretty much the whole show when it came to the ideas needed to make conservative governance work for people who work.

He brought ideas to the arena that were focused on actually accomplishing something through governing. This was a unique approach in Washington.

Today, for the most part, what happens in Washington stays in Washington: as in, nothing gets done. This is intentional.

Both sides of the political divide — which of course have numerous variations within them — are primarily dedicated to the singular, simple goal of holding power.

The idea of using power to address the complex and difficult issues that are bedeviling our culture are only put forward as abstract concepts, not in an expectation of use.

Pick any of the most significant domestic concerns that are confronting us.

In no particular order they are: the deficit and debt; immigration; the deterioration of our public educational system and its failure to prepare people for the real world; the erosion of faith in the American dream; fixing Medicare and social security.

Neither party shows any significant inclination to work on any of these problems in a manner that might actually lead to action.

To do so would require taking into account people who hold divergent views. The issues are so pervasive and affect so many of us that bipartisan involvement is required to address them.

But as has been observed over and over again in recent years, bipartisanship is anathema to the base of both parties. It is not an acceptable route to follow if you are on the hard left or right.

The upshot is that the roads that the parties are propelled down by their own base supporters are in fact dead ends — at least when it comes to actually governing.

Ryan was the one leader in either party who had the courage, natural inclination and ability to reject these paths to nowhere.

He has for years been throwing forth ideas.

More importantly, he relished the effort of drawing people from the other side of the aisle to his cause.

Among the efforts he sparked, we have had “Ryan-Murray” on controlling the budget, “Ryan-Wyden” on Medicare reform, and a rather long list of bipartisan initiatives on immigration and tax reform.

Unfortunately, Ryan was fenced in.

On one side, there was a president who had no interest in complex issues that required complex responses.

The president is also so disliked by the Democratic members of Congress that they “resist” any effort that might afford him a victory, whether it comes through Paul Ryan or anyone else.

On the other side, Ryan was hobbled by a small minority within his own caucus who did not come to Washington to take on the responsibly of governing but rather came to disrupt for disruption’s sake. They made him their target.

In light of this neutering of Ryan’s ability to deliver on the tough issues, it is reasonable to ask: Does his departure really matter?

For those who claim victory in his departing, it obviously does. It gives them a “win” as they define it in their unrelenting quest to accomplish the superficial.

For the rest of us, it has very serious implications.

To take Paul Ryan off the stage of national governance removes one of the few people in recent times who had the stature, intuition and depth to lead our government toward resolving the issues that most threaten our culture.

You can say this is an overstatement, but it is not.

Name one other person in Washington who can forge real coalitions, reaching out to those across political spectrums that encompass most Americans and as a result generate substantive action on the core issues of concern?

Name one other major figure in our political panoply who is willing to put forth truly creative ideas that are aimed at helping people in all corners of our country move to a better future?

Sen. Bernie Sanders  (I-Vt.) and President  Trump may be the archangels of the left and the right.

But Bernie is a socialist; his ideas are old and tired. They have been tried and have universally failed, yet they are presented with an outright antipathy toward those who do not agree with him.

The president is unable to get past himself and his tweets to actually govern.

Uniquely positive people who can move good governance forward only come along occasionally in this business called politics.

Paul Ryan might have been one of those leaders.

But his fate was to be merely close to the right time and place, rather than at the right time and place. As a result, his success was marginal.

He gave us hope, however.

With time, he may have been the force we needed to move our government towards a better tomorrow for all Americans.

If one were fair in an assessment of him, the conclusion would be that, no matter where we fall on the broad horizon of our national politics, we are worse off for his early departure.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bipartisanship debt and deficits Donald Trump Leadership Paul Ryan Republican Party

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