Less than two weeks after he essentially said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to running for House Speaker, Representative Paul Ryan put his finger on the precise problem with Republicans in general and the Freedom Caucus in particular.
“We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be the speaker, I want us to become the solution.”
In making his statement (Oct. 20), Ryan made clear that he would not accept pre-conditions from any faction or group. What he is asking from his colleagues is an orderly, common sense process and, most importantly, to work as a team.
“Tonight, I shared with my colleagues what I think it will take to have a unified conference and for the next speaker to be successful. Basically, I made a few requests for what I think is necessary, and I asked my colleagues to hear back from them by the end of the week.
“First, we need to move from an opposition party to a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker has to be a visionary one.
“Second, we need to update our House rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative. This is, after all, the people’s house. But we need to do this as a team. And it needs to include fixes that ensure we don’t experience constant leadership challenges and crisis.
“Third, we, as a conference, should unify now and not after a divisive speaker election.
“The last point is personal. I cannot and will not give up my family time. I may not be on the road as often as previous speakers, but I pledged to try and make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message.
“What I told the members is, if you can agree to these requests, and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve. And, if I am not unifying, that will be fine as well. I will be happy to stay where am, at the Ways and Means Committee.
“Here is how I see it. . . .
“It is our duty to serve the people the way they deserve to be served. It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get our nation back on track.
“The challenges we face today are too difficult and too demanding for us to turn our backs and walk away: Global terror; war on multiple fronts; a government grown unaccountable, unconstitutional, out-of-touch; persistent poverty; a sluggish economy; flat wages; a sky-rocketing debt.
“But we cannot take on these challenges alone. Now, more than ever, we must work together. All of us are representatives of the people—all the people. We have been entrusted by them to lead. And yet the people we serve, they do not feel that we are delivering on the job they hired us to do. We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be speaker, I want us to become the solution.
“One thing I’ve learned from my upbringing in Janesville is that nothing is ever solved by blaming people. We can blame the president. We can blame the media… We can point fingers across the aisle. We can blame each other. We can dismiss our critics and criticism as unfair.
“People don’t care about blame. People don’t care about effort. People care about results; results that are measurable; results that are meaningful; results that make a difference in their daily lives.
“I want to be clear about this. I still think we are an exceptional country with exceptional people and a republic clearly worth fighting for. The American Idea, it’s not too late to save, but we are running out of time.
“And Make no mistake: I believe that the ideas and principles of results-driven, common-sense conservatism are the keys to a better tomorrow — a tomorrow in which all of God’s children will be better off than they are today.
The idea that the role of the federal government is not to facilitate dependency, but to create an environment of opportunity for everyone; The idea that the government should do less and do it better. The idea that those who serve should say what they mean and mean what they say.
“The principle that we should all determine the course of our own lives instead of ceding that right to those who think they are better than the rest of us.
“Yes, we will stand and we will fight when we must, and surely this presidency will require that.
“A commitment to our natural rights. A commitment to common sense; to compassion; to co-operation — when rooted in genuine conviction and principle — is a commitment to conservatism.
“Let me close by saying: I consider to do this with reluctance, and I mean that in the most personal of ways. Like many of you, Janna and I have children who are in the formative, foundational years of their lives.
“I genuinely worry about the consequences that my agreeing to serve will have on them. Will they experience the viciousness and incivility that we all face here on a daily basis?
“But my greatest worry, my greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up. Of some day having my own kids ask me, ‘When the stakes were so high, why didn’t you do all you could? Why didn’t you stand and fight for my future when you had the chance to do so?’
“None of us wants to hear that question and none of us should ever have to.
“I have shown my colleagues what I think success looks like, what it takes to unify and lead, and how my family commitments come first. I have left this decision in their hands, and should they agree with these requests, then I am happy and willing to get to work. Thank you.”
“Nearly all men can stand adversity,” Lincoln said, “but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
The Liberty and Freedom Caucuses have not only abused their power but remain dangerously partisan.
My hope is that a strong and viable group of Republicans will see that Paul Ryan has both the character and fair-mindedness to be the leader that can move the House and, hopefully the country, forward.