Former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday there are a lot of digital-age “entertainers” in Congress who are making it difficult to find common ground and forge legislative solutions for the country.
Mr. Ryan, speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” said that 10 years ago, lawmakers tried to climb a “meritocracy” in Congress.
“The measurement of success was policy and persuasion: Could you persuade your colleagues, your country, your constituents, ‘This is the right way to go, here’s a solution?’” Mr. Ryan said. “That’s not necessarily what motivates people anymore. There’s a lot of entertainers in Congress in both parties.”
Mr. Ryan said the result is lawmakers focus on their online reputation and forget about policymaking and compromise.
“You can just leapfrog that whole process, be a really good entertainer, have an incredible presence — digital — and forget about policymaking and curate a brand for yourself,” he said. “So you have entertainers in Congress now that eschew the policymaking process.”
He said that’s a problem because the Capitol Hill system is designed to build consensus and strike deals across the aisle to avoid government shutdowns, defaults and “get half a loaf” on policy.
“But that is bad for a brand. That is bad if you’re going to entertain — if you’re going to show that you’re better than everybody else in your ecosystem,” he said.
Mr. Ryan spoke as Americans increasingly view Washington as paralyzed and polarized. He said people are too busy reinforcing their own views on their phones, preferred cable outlets and websites, and “that divides us.”
The former speaker joined the board of directors at Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, in 2019, prompting The Daily Beast publication to argue it was hypocritical for Mr. Ryan to complain about a polarizing media system.