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On the Bridge

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House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. answers a question at the 2011 Fiscal Summit in Washington, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. answers a question at the 2011 Fiscal Summit in Washington, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

He’s finally done it. Paul Ryan has bowed out with Shermanesque assurance:

“I do not want, nor will I accept, the Republican nomination. Count me out: I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee for our party to be the President, you should actually run for it. I chose not to do this, therefore I should not be considered, period, end of story.”

This is unfortunate news as he was the person best suited to carry the GOP banner into November, a man of demonstrated principle, vision and integrity with the capacity to clearly and intelligently articulate a positive conservative message for voters. Unfortunately, as a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning notes, “Nothing Mr. Ryan could say would suppress the whispers that he is preparing to airdrop into Cleveland in July, overpower the other candidates and emerge as the GOP nominee . . .”

The editorial writers go on to note that the ongoing possibility of his candidacy made this year not “the best . . . for the 46-year-old Mr. Ryan to be the nominee, as the paranoia about his nonexistent candidacy showed. This innuendo crested in recent weeks as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz stoked grassy-knoll fears about a plot to overthrow the will of voters. Both candidates and their camps are building ‘corrupt bargain’ narratives if they lose, and so Mr. Ryan would be set up for likely defeat in November.”

Obviously Ryan saw the handwriting on the wall. The party is facing a disaster in November which his candidacy would not be able to prevent given the narrative of distrust that now prevails in the party base. His denials of interest in running have been made before but desperate competition among the current front runners and rampant suspicion among voters recast every Ryan denial into a narrative of hidden ambition and secret affirmation. In this election cycle a paranoid mode of thinking has grabbed hold of a large segment of the GOP base and, indeed, of voters more generally.

Something peculiar is going on, perhaps having to do with our new media environment (thanks to a growing culture of conspiracy infecting our movies and television shows as well as the fiction we tend to read and partly, too, due to the advent of the Internet where everyone speaks his or her mind without care for actual facts, without bothering to check sources to make sure one’s facts are accurate). This has given rise to campaigns like those of Trump and Cruz, both of which feed on the sense of grievance that now pervades our culture and which they stoke by invoking a specter of conspiracy everywhere. The Sanders campaign, on the Democratic side is no better.

Americans have gone bonkers, I think, though perhaps it was inevitable in an anything-goes culture such as ours has now become. The Wall Street Journal suggests Ryan, in foregoing any thought of entering the nomination process at the eleventh hour to save the party, has decided instead to focus on at least saving the GOP House majority by building an agenda for conservative reform, hopefully positioning the party to pick up the pieces after what looks more and more like an impending GOP implosion come November. GOP primary voters seem inured to that prospect now, intent on plunging their party over the cliff, enamored of their own anger and sense of grievance, ascribing it all to a secret cabal of party honchos intent on thwarting their will.

It’s generally thought a good thing to intervene when someone stands athwart a bridge, threatening to jump to certain death. But, of course, the jumper (if he’s really intent on doing himself in) won’t agree. Apparently our GOP jumpers are of that opinion, too, and not even the prospect of a serious candidacy like Ryan’s can stop them.

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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