Since Donald Trump locked up the GOP presidential nomination, resistance to his candidacy from the party's elites has crumbled remarkably quickly.
And the latest domino fell Thursday afternoon, as House Speaker Paul Ryan finally made clear in an op-ed and a tweet that he supported Trump's candidacy and planned to vote for him.
Back in early May, Ryan became perhaps the highest profile Trump resister who's currently holding elected office when he went on CNN to proclaim that he wasn't "ready" to endorse Trump. Ryan emphasized that, to "bring all wings of the Republican Party together," he thought Trump would have to do two things: embrace conservative values and use rhetoric that would "appeal to all Americans."
But, as Matt Yglesias wrote at the time, this always appeared to be a bluff. Ryan simply didn't have much leverage on the guy who had already won the GOP nomination. Furthermore, Ryan himself needs the party to unify, to better help his House majority win reelection. And reports from a mid-May meeting between Ryan and Trump seemed to signal that the speaker wouldn't hold out too much longer.
Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life. The list of potential Supreme Court nominees he released after our first meeting was very encouraging.
But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue. We’ve talked about the common ground this agenda can represent. We’ve discussed how the House can be a driver of policy ideas. We’ve talked about how important these reforms are to saving our country. And we’ve talked about how, by focusing on issues that unite Republicans, we can work together to heal the fissures developed through the primary.
Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.
It’s no secret that he and I have our differences. I won’t pretend otherwise. And when I feel the need to, I’ll continue to speak my mind. But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.
Ryan's almost certainly right that Donald Trump is more likely to sign conservative bills into law than Hillary Clinton is. His electoral incentives are probably too strong to expect he'd ever become a serious anti-Trump holdout. And I don't know what the two have discussed in private — or what, if any, assurances Trump may have given Ryan.
Still, the overall capitulation of Republican elites to Trump's hostile takeover of their party is rather remarkable. Trump has demagogued immigrants and Muslims, barely paid lip service to "conservative principles" on economic issues, impugned the integrity of a federal judge based purely on his ethnicity, and his temperament and basic fitness for office are in question. Ryan's surrender to him is the latest indication that, in modern Americans politics, partisanship trumps everything else.