As part of putting together and writing my Trump book, I’ve been going back through the seemingly limitless number of posts I’ve written about him over the last eighteen months. And what’s jumped out at me today is how longstanding the feud with Paul Ryan is.
It’s blown up into a major story a few times. But it’s been a recurrent feature of the campaign going back almost to the beginning. Obviously Trump had his feuds with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (almost everyone up on the debate stage at some point or other). But while the intensity and crudeness of Trump’s primary battles was notable, we expect primary candidates to fight and feud. After all, only one candidate can win. It’s all zero sum in the final analysis.
But we don’t expect presidential candidates to feud with leaders of the congressional party. Not like this. Not with this intensity.
Some of this is about Paul Ryan. He’s very different from Mitch McConnell. McConnell has no pretensions to be a man of ideas or the man of the Republican future. He runs the Senate, tries to undermine the president and tries to make sure his members get reelected. There haven’t really been any Trump-McConnell feuds because McConnell’s basically happy to stay in his lane, at least in public.
But Ryan’s obviously very different. Whether you think Ryan is an important thinker and figure or just a politician with excessive pretension, it’s sort of the same difference. He can’t recede into the background while someone who champions a very different version of the GOP holds sway. One imagines that John Boehner would have been closer to McConnell than Ryan.
All that aside, though, we can see something very basic here about Donald Trump, though not something terribly surprising. He now sees himself as the leader of the Republican party, which by every normal definition he is. So the Republican party is his. He simply cannot tolerate another source of independent power within what he considers his domain.
As I said, this isn’t terribly surprising given everything we’ve seen from Donald Trump. But it gives a strong hint of what a Trump presidency would be like.