Speaking to a boisterous rally at the Anaheim Convention Center today, 69-year-old GOP presumptive nominee real estate tycoon Donald Trump hinted he isn’t inclined to meet House Speaker Paul Ryan’s conservative demands. Ryan withheld his endorsement pending Trump’s agreement to implement a conservative agenda, something GOP voters don’t want in 2016. While Ryan continues to beat a dead horse about a conservative agenda, conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh admitted that 2016 isn’t about ideology. Ryan’s conservative agenda has long left the station with voters stating unequivocally they’re looking for something different in 2016: Voters want big changes in Washington, not more partisan bickering. Under House’s ultra-conservative Tea Party and Freedom Caucus, congressional approval ratings have dipped under 10%, mirroring the public’s call for change.
Trump railed against 63-year-old National Standard editor Bill Kristol who actively seeks a conservative third-party candidate to run against Trump. While told by Fox News conservative host Sean Hannity it would be “suicidal” for the GOP to run a third party, Kristol continues his anti-Trump rhetoric, despite Trump winning the GOP’s nomination with record votes. Kristol echoes the old conservative movement, lashing out against gay marriage, abortion and big government. Kristol’s American Standard magazine pushs the conservative mantra but doesn’t mirror popular pragmatic GOP trends sought by Trump’s voters. Kristol’s half-hearted attempt to seek a third-party candidate represents the last gasps from the anti-Trump movement, led by former GOP candidate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, both seeking to sabotage Trump’s nomination.
Going after Kristol at today’s Anaheim rally signals that Trump shows no interest in placating the GOP’s small but loud conservative movement. Trump stated that conservatives don’t speak for the GOP. “Folks, I’m a conservative, but, at this point who cares? We’ve got to straighten out the country,” said Trump, mirror his new brand of GOP politics, unwilling to bend to conservative demands, like Paul Ryan’s, to stick to conservative orthodoxy. When Ryan first came aboard Romney’s 2008 ticket, he promptly alienated general election voters with his flamethrower conservative rhetoric. Ryan’s unwillingness to endorse Trump’s candidacy direct relates to Trump’s low interest in pushing a conservative agenda. Trump wants Ryan’s and other conservatives’ support but doesn’t want to sabotage his chances in November by adopting an overly conservative agenda.
When former anti-Trump advocate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for conservatives to get behind Trump’s candidacy, it dealt a blow to conservatives like Ryan hoping to preserve a conservative agenda. Trump wants conservatives blessings but sees no reason to change what won him more votes than any presidential candidate in GOP history. Media conservatives like to play GOP voters against ideological elites like Ryan, whose ultra-conservative agenda won Congress abysmal approval ratings. Graham’s capitulation to the inevitability of Trump’s nomination signals to the anti-Trump movement to give up and work toward defeating Hillary in November, if she’s allowed to run for president. Whoever runs against Trump, it’s going to be difficult to place Trump in typical conservative box, given his more progressive views of abortion and same sex marriage.
If Ryan doesn’t endorse soon, he risks loosing his speakership because House leaders typically follow nominees of their Party. Slated to chair the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July, Ryan already offered to resign if his agenda doesn’t match that of his Party’s nominee. Ryan’s unprecedented action to withhold his endorsement highlights deep divisions inside the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. With GOP voters on his side, Trump has all the leverage he needs to reshape the Party in his own image. Trump shows pragmatic, consensus-building GOP politics, looking for voters’ approval, far beyond abysmal Congressional approval ratings. Conservative diehards like Kristol or Washington Post’s curmudgeon conservative columnist George Will haven’t yet admitted that 2016 isn’t about promoting conservative ideology.
GOP Party leaders need to accept that Trump, not Krstol, Will or any other conservative flamethrower, have a right as the GOP’s nominee to set the Party’s agenda. Whatever the past conservative agenda, it netted the House under 10% approval ratings but, more importantly, resulted in the past two GOP election failures. Trump’s populist message resonates with 2016 voters precisely because they’re disgusted with the GOP’s status quo of partisan gridlock. Trump offers a new beginning, reaching across Party lines to develop a broad governing coalition. Conservatives, like Ryan and Will, must accept that they’re no longer setting the Republican Party agenda. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus already signaled that the GOP is ready to get behind Trump. It’s now up to conservatives to show they respect the will of GOP primary voters, overwhelmingly choosing Trump.