Paul Ryan shocked no one, at least no one who was paying attention, when last week he announced he would not seek re-election to the House of Representatives and would leave the Speaker’s chair when his term is up in January.
Paul Ryan never really wanted the job of Speaker. He made that obvious when he took the job. Some observers at the time thought he was throwing so many conditions on his acceptance that the Republican caucus would not agree to them.
They did, and Mr. Ryan became Speaker. He said then, he was not going to stay forever. He wanted to leave Washington before his children were grown.
Mr. Ryan’s announcement sets off an obvious power struggle in the GOP. Who will be the next Speaker?
For the GOP, this is both a crisis and an opportunity. If they will take it.
The leading contender is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy is a moderate from California. And that is the problem.
Mr. McCarthy is another John Boehner, only younger and not a chain smoker. The problem Mr. McCarthy brings to the table is that he is a moderate. He is a bland moderate. He is the kind of moderate who has alienated much of the Republican base. He is the kind of Republican who inspires the chants of “drain the swamp.”
The influential Conservative Review gives Mr. McCarthy an “F” rating of 38. As the next Speaker or even as the heir apparent, Mr. McCarthy does nothing to stop the oncoming blue wave this year. In fact, he probably helps it.
Jim Jordan, the congressman from Ohio and a leader in the House Freedom Caucus, has expressed some interest in running for Speaker.
Jim Jordan is a solid conservative and he would be an improvement over Paul Ryan. A lot of conservatives give Mr. Ryan bad marks. Some of those are deserved. Paul Ryan came to the Congress as a young conservative. The problem is, he is a policy wonk and policy means getting a government solution.
For Republicans, Mr. Jordan is a far better choice for Speaker and he is a choice that should be announced well before the midterm elections.
2018 is a major problem for the Republicans.
The Democrats are pumped up for the election. Democrats with a byline, what most Americans still call journalists, are slanting their coverage to be favorable to the Democrats and against President Trump and the Republicans.
Conservatives need a reason to get out and vote and right now, the Republicans are not giving it to them. For years, the Republicans promised that if they had a majority, wonderful things would happen. Obamacare would be repealed. The size of government would be cut. Government spending would be cut. Funding for Planned Parenthood would be eliminated. When President Trump came along, there were promises that a wall would be built.
None of those things has happened.
Congress just passed a massive budget that funded almost every liberal priority but did nothing to advance a conservative agenda.
Conservatives are fed up and if something isn’t done, conservatives will stay home this fall. While it is all but mathematically impossible for the Republicans to lose the Senate, the House is a different story.
That is why the Republicans in the House need to step up and designate a new Speaker now.
That is also why it cannot be Kevin McCarthy. He will not energize the base. Paul Ryan doesn’t energize the base either and as a lame duck, he won’t do much good.
Without the president on the ballot, the Republicans need an issue to nationalize this election. A conservative Speaker with an agenda, much like the Contract with America that Newt Gingrich pushed in 1994, is the answer.
There is only one conservative Republican who could do that. And that Republican isn’t Kevin McCarthy.
• Judson Phillips is the founder of Tea Party Nation.