On Thursday afternoon, citing interviews with three dozen confidantes, Politico reported that Ryan, who has served as speaker of the House since September 2015, is eyeing the exits. Ryan, according to the report, was already sick of Washington, D.C., before he replaced John Boehner as speaker. He’s unsurprisingly tired of dealing with all of the crap that being speaker entails, including the never-ending power struggles and infighting. According to the report, Ryan would use his final year as speaker attempting to fulfill the dream he’s had since he was going to keg parties in college: entitlement reform.
There is an element of “you can’t fire me, I quit!” to all of this. Ryan is on the verge of passing sweeping tax reform, but he is also heading into the toughest stretch of his speakership. He’s facing a tougher than expected challenge from Randy Bryce, who has become a darling of the left over the past several months. And, perhaps most importantly, he’s about to oversee an expected bloodbath in the 2018 midterms.
It’s only going to get worse from there, which Ryan’s friends and associates acknowledge: “The best part of this scenario, people close to the speaker emphasize: He wouldn’t have to share the ballot with Trump again in 2020,” Politico writes.
Ryan’s departure would mean the end of an era in the House. A disciple of Ayn Rand and supply-side legend Jack Kemp, Ryan presented himself as the wonkish future of the Republican Party. But despite a lot of help from the mainstream press, which anointed him a serious policy thinker despite so much evidence to the contrary (as Jeet Heer has written), Ryan’s free market-ism never translated into popularity. In fact, some of Donald Trump’s success in 2016 can be directly attributed to his rejection of what could be called Ryanism.
Passing tax reform—and, perhaps, entitlement reform—would nevertheless leave a colossal legacy. His other legacy? Signaling that he’s jumping ship before he has to take responsibility for the wreckage that will ensue from those achievements, both to his party and his country.