One of the great joys in life is old friends, especially when you realize that, for the most part, you see the world in the same way. So it is a measure of no small joy to me that, despite the understandable hatred my good friend and Ace Blog Reader Diamond Mark Perrone both have for Trump, we agree that we hate Paul Ryan way, way more.
I don’t think there is much question. I know it is weird and contradictory, because I hate Donald Trump more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life. Like, a lot more. But while Trump is all dark malevolence, cruelty and ignorance, and while his emptiness, vanity, and snarling hatreds consume us all and pull the world into his hideous vortex, well, Paul Ryan is just more dweebishly evil.
I mean, look at his wistful and dewy farewell statement, as he confirmed he won’t be running for re-election this year.
Entitlement reform is the one thing, the one other great thing I spent most of my career working on. I’m extremely proud of the fact that the House passed the biggest entitlement reform bill in the history of the House of Representatives. Do I regret that the Senate did not pass this? Yes. But I feel, from all the budgets that I’ve passed, normalizing entitlement reform, and the House passing entitlement reform, I’m very proud of that fact. But of course, more work needs to be done. And it really is entitlements. That’s where the work needs to be done. And I’m going to keep fighting for that.
Look at this aw-shucks asshole. “I’m proud I was able to give so, so much more money to the wealthy, but doggone it, I didn’t quite destroy the life of the poor, so I’ll keep fighting for that.” That’s he’ll fight from the private sector, which may keep him away from his wistful Janesville manse, is going largely unnoticed.
Paul Ryan is a fraud, yes: his budgets never came within sniffing distance of reality, he was an unconcerned hypocrite on debt and deficit even while absurdly earning a reputation as a serious man, and spoke eloquently of poverty while doing what he could to ruin the lives of the poor.
But saying he was a fraud almost excuses him. He was a hateful snake who spent his entire career shoving wealth upward, destroying the social safety net, and advancing the idea that government exists only to help capital grind labor into dust. He didn’t hate working for the government or think it was broken, his homey bromides aside: it was only broken inasmuch that it still sometimes stood for the common good instead of kneeling meekly for the boss class.
Then, obviously, there was his role in promoting Trump. Sure, he played it thoughtful, but it always went the same way: Ryan backing Trump no matter what Trump did, no matter how vulgar he was, no matter how racist or anti-democratic. It didn’t matter. Remember when Ryan pretended he wasn’t going to endorse Trump? That pre-ordained theater of non-suspense was their relationship in a nutshell: Ryan would pretend to be concerned, and then help Trump in every possible way.
This is often painted as capitulation, or Ryan selling his soul to help Trump. It’s seen overall as cowardice, even among those in the media who admire Ryan for god-knows-what reason. (Diamond Mark Perrone captures the media’s relationship with him here.)But that’s absurd. It wasn’t cowardice. Paul Ran supported Trump because Trump’s inherent cruelty matched Ryan’s at every step of the way.
Ryan hates the poor; Trump wanted to take away their health care because he hates Obama and doesn’t care about anyone else. So they all got excited by that! It was a sociopath Christmas! The entire modern GOP is based on meanness: whether that is the dull bellowing of Trump or the misty hucksterism of Ryan doesn’t matter. It’s the same.
America is better off without Paul Ryan. The only sad thing is that he won’t lose his election this year, which would have been beautiful. It would have shown that his paeans to Janesville, a union town which despises him, were complete bullshit. It would have shown again how fraudulent he was, how in hock he was to the rich, and how divorced he was to the values and the people for whom he pretends, with alter boy eyes pointed into the cloudy hereafter, to fight.
Goddamn, that would have been great. If he lost his reelection I honestly would think about it at least once a day for the rest of my life and smile like a goon.
So let’s have no positive obits for a man who would be better off as a coward. He wasn’t. He was a willing enabler, because Trump allowed him to get closer to his sick vision of America. He spent his entire life living off the government while bashing it, destroying any sense of the collective good while growing rich off it, and claiming our system was broken while smashing it with a lead pipe. He was the factory who decried that the neighborhood was getting polluted while charging us all our life savings for air filters.
This country and all its troubles are as much Paul Ryan’s as they are Trumps, if not much, much more. He’ll forever be on the wrong side of history, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives fighting against his mean, spiteful, caricatured idea about the responsibility we have for each other.
Were this a just country he’d be frog-marched back to Janesville, drummed out of public life, and never heard from again. But part of Paul Ryan’s project was to ensure this isn’t a just country. He didn’t totally succeed, but he’s done true and lasting damage.