In Paul Ryan, we trust.
That’s my answer to the many people I’ve talked with who are homeless in the coming November election. Many Republicans don’t want to vote for Donald Trump, who they see as a repudiation of the value structure they have lived their lives around. But they can’t see voting for Hillary Clinton, who they view as having both feet in the power and money trough and who will tip the balance on the U.S. Supreme Court with three likely appointments.
I have no answer for them in the presidential races. Some say tell me they might cast their ballots for a candidate from a fringe party.
But there is one solution. Vote for gridlock.
If Speaker Paul Ryan and the GOP hold onto their arm of Congress, with the best bet being the House, he and they can block legislation from either President Clinton or President Trump.
The GOP may lose control of the U.S. Senate if Trump loses in a landslide. Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson could be part of the collateral damage from a Trump loss. He is trailing consistently in the polls to Russ Feingold, the liberal Democrat who was his predecessor.
Gridlock could work in two directions. Clinton has run to the left, so you can expect her, for example, to recognize reality on the failed experiment with ObamaCare and go for “the public option ” (translate: a government takeover of the health care industry). Ryan and a GOP-controlled House could put the skids on her trip down that road to federal bankruptcy.
And a GOP-led House could mitigate damage from other initiatives taking the country more to an entitlement society without regard to ways and means. Clinton’s fiscal policies are centrist, but they don’t jibe with the costs of her social agenda. Like her husband, she is probably a pro-growth Democrat underneath, but she doesn’t talk about it on the stump.
Even the Lord doesn’t know what Trump would come up with as president. Trump doesn’t know. His positions change by the hour. He will be entertaining—for a while. But his schtick will get old in a hurry as problems beg for solutions beyond policy blurts. Ryan looks to have the fortitude to not get dragged into Reality TV.
It’s one thing for Ryan as a party leader to tread a high wire act during a presidential campaign when loyalty to party weighs heavily. While reticent, he supports Trump on the surface. It is another matter for Ryan to deal with a president as a leader of a co-equal branch of power under the constitution.
A President Trump would surely try to roll Congress. It’s in his DNA to bully his way to where he wants to go. President Obama has blazed the trail with his over-reach of the use of executive power to circumvent the will of Congress, not that Trump needs or regards precedent.
Ryan knows, as we all know, that the way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose. We learned it on the playground, where Trump learned many of his tactics.
Ryan, who has a safe seat in November, can also be counted on to protect the prerogatives of the legislative branch as a matter of institutional integrity. He won’t get rolled.
A President Clinton would also be rough and tough in the clinches. Local Democrats have told me she also likes to muscle adversaries. She does it more covertly than Trump, but she is just as likely to bend the rules to do things her way. Witness the circumvention of the laws and regulations with her private e-mail server.
In short, both candidates believe rules and regulations are for other people. Moreover, they can be counted on to use their powers to target adversaries. Trump, for instance, has on a long history of using the legal system to attack business adversaries.
There will be a need for a counter—balance at the highest levels of American government. We in Wisconsin know Paul Ryan. We may not agree with him on all issues, but he has been a principled politician for a long time. Track records count for something.
So write your checks and knock on doors for a Ryan-led GOP house.
If ever here was a time when checks and balances will be needed, the next four years looks like it.
The prospects for a government under President Trump or President Clinton are exactly what our founding fathers feared and why they created three co-equal branches of government.
At the end of the day, it is Congress that can put the brakes on over-reach by the other two branches, either by a president or a partisan court going too far from the American mainstream.
Congressmen, especially House members, do retail politics as they run for office every two years. They are closest to the people. They are in the mainstream.
Ergo, vote for gridlock. That means keeping Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House.
John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. in West Bend. He is involved with several business and civic organizations and is the author of “The Company That Solved Health Care.”