At 48 years old, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has found himself a dinosaur. He is an example of the evolutionary adaptation of the American politician entered during an age of consensus building across political aisles as the way the United States Congress did its part in the American system of government. He has witnessed it consumed by the impact of a meteor called identity politics; that hardening of lines that turned the so-called “swamp” into a feuding encampment where bias has hardened into institutionalized segregation among the political class. He’s come to be the figurehead of the House, what was supposed to be the jewel dream job of a political career, only to preside over the spectacle of a modern day gang war between factions of Hatfields and McCoys. It has to have been a soul draining experience full of frustration where only a sense of duty and love to one’s country makes one hang on.
Speaker Ryan hit the wall. That point where it wasn’t worth it anymore. The moment where you have to either save what’s left of your soul or lose what you have left and become an empty shell of a slave to the apparatus like some of his colleagues have. He’s chosen survival. I can’t say it’s a bad choice. The outlook for Congress in the immediate future is more of the same as years of hardened, irreconcilable positional politics that is what Congress has become is systematically torn down in what is popularly known as “draining the swamp”. That’s not the making of President Donald Trump. While the President is the catalyst for what is happening, he is merely the personification of the process that has been the pent up demand of the American people for a long time. America wants a government that works for the people and not for the Beltway back. The truth of this remains despite whatever confirmation bias one uses to try to color the truth.
While among the most visible, Ryan is not the only one who has chosen to leave the onerous bubble of a Capitol Hill imprisoned by gridlock. The list includes senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Al Franken (D-MN) as well as representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Joe Barton (R-TX), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Lynne Jenkins (R-KS), Sam Johnson (R-TX), John Duncan Jr. (R-TN), Ted Poe (R-TX), Dave Trot (R-MI), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Blake Farentold (R-TX), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Greg Harper (R-MS), Ed Royce (R-CA), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Tom Rooney (R-FL) Dennis Ross (R-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Bob Brady (D-PA), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Gene Greene (D-TX), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT).
There will be others. They are the lucky ones. They are the ones who can leave by choice and go back to their lives. Some of Ryan’s other colleagues, particularly among his Democratic counterparts, for whatever reasons cannot or will not leave; although a number of them should as they are at this point more part of the Capitol Hill problem than a solution to it. I suspect the inevitability that they will go. America has a way of running those who outlive their usefulness to the national interest out of town. Tar and feathers on a rail if need be; most likely by a tumultuous revolution internal to the Democratic Party itself.
Regardless of whatever get out the vote activism or media spin about polls and trends plays out during the summer of 2018, what is already a certainty is that the power matrix of the US Congress will change, radically so. Nothing can change this date with destiny.
And that’s kind of the point of what we are watching unfold. This changing of the guard is a healthy thing for America. The remaking of Congress is Act Two in the play that brought Donald Trump to Washington, D.C. We are in for a fearful time of strife. We will see newcomers challenging leadership. We will see cells of fanatical partisanship rise; almost all of which will falter because that is the way of things. And out of that cauldron, we will find a new generation of leaders and statesmen who will rise above the bicker. The American experiment will go on.
Image Credits: (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)