Republican Convention Devolves into WWE Bout as Trump Threatens Ryan’s Role as Chairman

Sean Hannity wanted Paul Ryan replaced as Speaker of the House for his failure to endorse Donald Trump. While he is unlikely to see that wish fulfilled, he is likely thrilled at the news that Trump, while not exactly calling on Ryan to step down as chairman of the Republican Convention, said there could be “consequences.”

Right now, as the smack talk flies fast and furious, the two men sound more like wrestling superstars sparring verbally before the big match than they do the leaders of their party. In a WWE ring, personalities are always bigger than issues, and these men just don’t like each other.

As Speaker of the House, Ryan is tasked with serving as Chairman of the 2016 Republican Convention, something he says he didn’t know when he took the job as Speaker. It has been a rude awakening, as reality tends to be for Republicans these days.

Trump has already threatened, “I think you’d have riots,” if anyone contests his nomination, which is his way of telling his supporters to riot if the establishment contests his nomination.

Ryan’s answer was that, “Nobody should say such things. To even address or hint (about) violence is unacceptable.”

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump addressed the chairman issue by saying,

“I will give you a very solid answer, if that happens, about one minute after that happens, O.K.? There’s no reason to give it right now, but I’ll be very quick with the answer.”

It is not like Trump to be coy; it is very much like Trump to threaten. Sarah Palin issued a threat of her own, alluding to Eric Cantor’s defeat (Cantor, you will remember, was supposed to be Boehner’s successor) by saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” that as a result of opposing Trump, Ryan could be “Cantored” and his “political career” over.

Having Sarah Palin’s attention sounds almost as unpleasant as being drawn and quartered, and they don’t come much shmarmier than Eric Cantor. It is doubtful Ryan is worried much by Palin’s threat to back Ryan’s primary challenger, but her threat is symptomatic of a larger problem.

This was Ryan back in March talking about his role as chairman:

“My goal is to be dispassionate and to be ‘Switzerland.’ To be neutral and dispassionate. Make sure that the rule of law prevails and to make sure that the delegates make their decision however the rules require them to do that. I will acquaint myself with these things at the right time.”

That doesn’t sound like a goal Ryan can realistically hope to fulfill today. You can be sure Trump isn’t buying it, especially in the wake of Ryan being touted as a possible candidate himself to oppose Trump (McCain’s fantasies about Ryan being a possible VP choice notwithstanding).

A bigger question might be how Ryan can be dispassionate as Switzerland when, as ABC News put it Friday, he is battling Trump “for the soul of the Republican Party.”

You might wonder why anyone as all-powerful as Donald J. Trump would need anybody’s support when their opposition so neatly serves their martyrdom myth, and Trump may be wondering that too, since he said Sunday that Ryan’s support was no big deal:

“I’d like to have his support. But if he doesn’t want to support me, that’s fine, and we have to go about it.”

Which means he’s reached the acceptance stage and moved onto the revenge stage of grief. Trump threw down the gauntlet Thursday on Twitter:

“Paul Ryan said that I inherited something very special, the Republican Party. Wrong, I didn’t inherit it, I won it with millions of voters!”

Ryan picked the gauntlet up by telling Jake Tapper later that day,

“This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp. What a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard bearer that bears our standards.”

It is also the party of Sarah Palin. Yes, GOP. You built that. And you built Trump. It’s a little late for buyer’s remorse.

Trump is seemingly fed up with the Republican Party not rallying around his rebranding of the Republican Party as the Party of Trump, telling ABC’s “This Week,”

“I’m going to do what I have to do — I have millions of people that voted for me. So I have to stay true to my principles also. And I’m a conservative, but don’t forget, this is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.”

The Convention thing isn’t going well for the GOP, which is hardly any surprise since nothing else is going well for the GOP. Corporations sponsor the Convention but The New York Times is reporting that “Cleveland is “about $7 million short of its $64 million fund-raising goal just 10 weeks before the festivities begin.”

No large corporation wants to sponsor riots. Trump blames everybody else, but in large part, Trump has done this to himself. And now he expects all the people he spent the past months belittling to unite behind him. What is remarkable is that at the same time Trump can talk about sticking to his principles, he doesn’t think his Republican critics should have the luxury of theirs.

We can argue about whether we can put the word “principles” in the same sentence as the word “Republican,” but remember they do not, of their own choice, inhabit our shared reality. Everything taking place is taking place inside a carefully constructed bubble which is now threatening to burst.

With the result that, like me, you probably know a Republican or two who has nobody to vote for in November. Fox News has destroyed Hillary Clinton as an option for many Republicans, and Trump has destroyed Trump for many Republicans. Fox News’ Chad Pergram quipped “the wand chooses the wizard,” but the wand is broken.

If the two men can’t get on the same page when they meet Thursday morning, nothing that happens at the Republican National Convention’s title bout in Cleveland, Ohio, from July 18 to 21, 2016, is likely to change that.