Democracy & Government

Why Paul Ryan Should Man Up on Behalf of the GOP

A one-time Republican strategist advises the speaker of the House to do what Donald Trump suggests he won't.

Paul Ryan Should Do What Trump Won't

A former GOP consultant is suggesting that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), at left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), do what Donald Trump probably won't on election night. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Even before Wednesday night’s debate, we were struck by all the positive Twitter buzz prompted by this unsolicited advice from Matthew Dowd, a well-known political analyst who has worked for a number of big-name Republicans including former President George W. Bush.

We asked Dowd to expand on his tweet. His response is below.


In a bitterly divided and polarized political environment, what are we to do to bring the country together on Nov. 8 and onward? How is anyone going to be able to lead us in this era of wrenching cultural, political and economic fissures?

The polls show today that Hillary Clinton, barring a last-minute political earthquake, will be elected president.

The difficulty for her is that she will win and a majority of the country in the aftermath won’t like her and doesn’t trust her.

I have full confidence she will make steps on election night to try and bring the country together and speak to our best instincts; regrettably, I am almost equally certain that her message will fall flat with partisans who opposed her.

So much of the healing of America will depend on the conduct of her Republican opposition.

Ryan should be the designated driver on election night and take the keys from Trump.

I have little confidence that Donald Trump will do the appropriate and necessary thing on election night: Concede as a gentleman, congratulate Clinton and ask for his supporters to rally around the new president. He will likely continue to incite his most rabid supporters to continue fighting against her. That isn’t good for our politics and definitely isn’t good for our constitutional republic.

My advice to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is to step up and be the adult in the room.

As the nation’s top-ranking Republican elected official (constitutionally, the House speaker is second in the presidential line of succession), Ryan should be the designated driver on election night and take the keys from Trump. Ryan should pre-empt whatever Trump has to say by conceding on his behalf.

Ryan would do a service for our country by coming forward on Nov. 8 and congratulate Clinton on her historic victory as first woman president, asking for the country to give her a chance and saying he is going to work with her to move America forward.

If Ryan, and other folks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), really care about America and want to begin to rebuild their party, they need to step into the breach that will exist on election night, given the lack of leadership that, if current indications are any guide, Trump will likely show. Ryan and McConnell could say it is time to bring America together, and it is time to recapture what they believe is the essence of the Republican Party. They could begin to end the hostile takeover of their party by Trump, but they need to show principled leadership on the evening Clinton is elected.

I have many doubts that these two Republican leaders will step up to this moment and wrest control of the opposition from Trump, but I have hope they will see that is what America wants and needs at this time. It is what real leaders do in times of great disruption. They show humble servant leadership — the kind that could begin to heal this divided United States.

Matthew Dowd

Matthew Dowd has served as a consultant to Republicans, including former President George W. Bush, and Democrats. Founder of the social-impact venture fund, Paradox Capital, he is a political analyst for ABC, and a fellow at the University of Southern California. He describes himself as "vigorous independent" who is trying to build a community of like-minded voters at ListenTo.Us. Follow him @matthewjdowd.