Editorial: Trump should listen, learn from Ryan

The Detroit News

Republican chances of coming through the 2016 election season intact depend heavily on the meetings today between their presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and their congressional leaders, most importantly House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan triggered the meetings when he said he was not prepared to endorse Trump “at this time,” compounding fears that the billionaire’s nomination will fracture the GOP and cost it not only a shot a the White House, but ruin the brand for the long-term.

Ryan has particular concerns about Trump and he is right not to offer a knee-jerk endorsement in the name of party unity.

The speaker is a man of strong conservative principles. He has fought for entitlement and tax reform, both of which Trump has dismissed on the campaign trail. He’s also advocated sensible immigration policy, and is a strong voice for free trade, positions that again place him at odds with his party’s apparent presidential choice. And Ryan, and many others, were unsettled to hear Trump suggest he’d be willing to default on the national debt, as if the United States were just another flimsily financed Las Vegas casino.

So Ryan and those who share his reservations about Trump’s candidacy in general and his expressed policies in particular are right to ask what the Republican nominee intends to do to the long-standing Republican agenda before falling into partisan line behind him.

Others in the GOP mainstream, including the Bush family, have already announced they will not support Trump.

It’s not just sour grapes. They understand that in today’s political environment, endorsing a candidate means owning both the man and his positions. Every time Trump makes an inflammatory statement on the campaign trail, or tosses out a crude insult, or offends wide swaths of the electorate, those who endorsed him will be called on to defend or denounce his remarks.

Today’s meetings should not be about capitulating to the inevitable, but rather to set expectations from Trump and seek assurances that he won’t walk the Republican Party and its candidates off the dock.

Trump would be wise to listen and learn.

Ryan is not some entrenched Washington insider who has traded his ideals for political power. He was added to the 2012 GOP presidential ticket to give the campaign solid conservative credentials. He was coaxed to become speaker because he was seen as the only choice with the gravitas necessary to unify the Republican caucus after John Boehner was hounded out of Congress by the far right wing.

He is not only a bridge between GOP factions, but also the party’s intellectual leader. Trump needs him. His campaign could benefit from adding some principle to its populism as it seeks to appeal to the broader electorate.

Ryan has offered to step down as chairman of the Republican National Convention this summer if he and Trump can’t come to an understanding.

That would be a shame. With Trump as its standard bearer, the party needs the stability of a cohesive platform, written by Ryan and others who will be charged with picking up the pieces should a Trump candidacy result in disaster.