House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) plans to deliver Wednesday a repudiation of the “disheartened” state of American politics, a lengthy speech that comes amid the increasingly toxic Republican presidential primary that he has tried to steer away from in public comments.
Ryan, who told reporters Tuesday he would not “take the bait” on questions about presidential politics, is not expected to directly discuss the tone of individual campaigns, after he has repeatedly critiqued the tenor of Donald Trump’s rallies and some of his proposals in the GOP primary.
Advisers view the speech, which will take place inside his former stomping grounds of the Ways and Means Committee hearing room, as a chance to firmly establish Ryan, 46, as the adult in national Republican politics and to get activists focused on the emerging agenda that the still-new speaker is trying to craft.
“Looking around at what’s taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened,” Ryan is expected to say, according to excerpts of the speech provided by aides. “How many of you find yourself shaking your head at what you see from both sides?”
It’s difficult balancing act for Ryan, who has publicly tried to remain neutral in the race as he will be the co-chairman of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and could be called upon to officiate disputes over delegate counts if neither Trump nor Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) secures the tally required to cinch the nomination. At the same time, Ryan has had to beat down loud whispers from friends and supporters who view him as the perfect unity candidate at a disputed convention to win the backing of a large majority of delegates.
Congressional Democrats have mocked Ryan with each critique of Trump — most recently regarding the violence at some of his rallies — because each time the speaker has also added that he will support whoever the nominee is coming out of the convention. A senior adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) went so far as to call it “moral cowardice” if Ryan refuses to reject a Trump nomination.
Ryan has resisted those entreaties to more forcefully engage in the presidential campaign, sparking a debate among some so-called movement conservatives about whether Ryan owes it to their cause to more forcefully inject himself into a movement that goes by the “Stop Trump” and “Never Trump” labels.
Ryan appears ready to continue holding off those calls.
“When people distrust politics, they come to distrust institutions. They lose faith in their government and the future too,” he will say, according to the excerpts. “We can acknowledge this. But we can’t accept it. And we can’t enable it either. My father used to say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Ryan will then talk about what “politics can be” and “about what our country can be”.
In past comments, Ryan has said he intends to focus on what he can control, which is an emerging agenda of issues related to taxes and economic growth. That process is still very early in the making, so his speech is not expected to be specific on any issues.