In a panoramic sense, the fundraising letter Ryan sent on Trump’s behalf Thursday doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already to know. The GOP is mostly sorted at this point between Trump enablers and Trump opponents, and the Republican House speaker picked his side several weeks ago. He has no light left to shed, no integrity left to sacrifice.
But it does reveal more about the depths to which Ryan, personally, is willing to stoop to achieve whatever he imagines the upsides of a Trump presidency would be. It tells us he didn’t endorse Trump merely out of a sense of obligation to do the bare minimum on his party’s behalf at a disorienting moment.
Trump brags constantly about being worth $10 billion. That precise figure has been convincingly called into question, but this is how Trump represents himself to his supporters. The fact that Trump insists on raising money from hard-up Republican voters implies one of two things. Either, Trump is actually worth billions but wants the disaffected people whose interests he’s supposedly fighting for to pay for his campaign, rather than put a tiny dent in his fortune; or he doesn’t have anywhere near that much money and he’s been flatly lying to his supporters all along. Under which scenario is it OK for Ryan to ask his own contributors to give their money to Trump? A candidate who either can pony up himself, or is a fraud, and in either case is someone Ryan has called a racist.
We can’t chalk this up to Ryan being in an impossible position and making the wrong call—it speaks to him being a willful participant in something he knows is horrible.