Although insiders in Washington knew it was almost guaranteed to happen, the American public found itself shocked by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s announcement that he would not be seeking re-election, as reported by an April 11 Washington Post article.  

To the departing Ryan, I can only offer one piece of advice: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. While one would hope that Ryan would manage to summon the barest amount of a backbone now that he’s no longer reliant on voter appeal, I suspect that he’ll remain just as craven as ever and enable President Donald Trump’s worst behaviors right until the very end. 

Since first being elected to Congress all the way back in 1999, Ryan has used the thin veneer of policy smarts and anti-debt crusading to push forth a mathematically and morally dubious version of government

A career-long advocate for entitlement reform — a particularly loathsome euphemism for benefit cuts — Ryan spent most of his tenure in Congress proclaiming that robust aid programs like Social Security and Medicare needed to be partially privatized or scrapped altogether to avoid a mounting national debt crisis. As Ryan stated in a Feb. 22, 2012 interview with CNN, “What brings down empires, past and future, is debt.” Much like his mentor and fellow Representative Jack Kemp (R-NY), Ryan has spent his entire political career warning against the looming peril accompanying an increasing national debt.  

Yet Ryan found nothing wrong with pumping up America’s military budget to obscene levels, and repeatedly condemned Former President Barack Obama for attempting to shrink the size and scope of the military. Remember: As long as the military-industrial complex gets their kickbacks, spend as much as you want. We’ll just cover up their cost by discontinuing Medicaid and throwing Social Security in the garbage for future generations. That’s the kind of effective policymaking that gets you elected Speaker. 

You know what else speaks highly of Ryan’s committed efforts towards true fiscal solvency? Adding nearly $1.5 trillion to the national deficit over the next 10 years in order to pay for tax cuts for the ultra-rich, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As Speaker, Ryan was the one largely responsible for scraping together support and amendments for the House’s version of the legislation. 

At no point in the process did he attempt to warn his delegation about the massive amounts of financial pain they would be inflicting upon America’s future. Appeasing his Koch and Mercer masters with a big tax cut clearly mattered more to Ryan than sticking to the principles he so loudly trumpeted on the campaign trail. 

When the national nightmare known as the Trump campaign began, Ryan was at first aloof, choosing not to throw his weight behind any one Republican candidate. When Trump claimed that federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly judge the facts of his case because he was Mexican, Ryan said that Trump’s accusations were “the textbook example of a racist comment,” according to a June 7, 2016 New York Times article. 

However, he stopped well short of censuring Trump and eventually gave his full-throated endorsement of Trump. Writing for his hometown Janesville Gazette on June 2, 2016, Ryan wrote that he "feels confident [Trump] would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people's lives. That's why I'll be voting for him this fall." Given the choice between an ardent racist and Hillary Clinton, Ryan threw his lot in with Trump’s brand of race-baiting and authoritarian posturing. 

Even after Trump openly praised the “very fine” white nationalists who murdered Heather Hayer in the wake of the disastrous Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, Ryan refused to disavow the president. Resolutely declaring that “There is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis” in an Aug. 21, 2017 Facebook post on his official Congressional page, Ryan still stopped well short of blaming the president for enabling and encouraging the kind of horrific public behavior that emboldened neo-Nazis in the first place. 

By the very next day, Ryan was defending Trump’s comments at a CNN town hall, firmly standing against censuring the president for his heinous comments. “That would be so counterproductive,” said Ryan, “if we descend this issue into some partisan hackfest,” according to an Aug. 22, 2017 Washington Post article. Apparently not siding with literal Nazis and murderers constitutes a partisan hackfest these days. 

History will not look kindly upon Ryan’s tenure as Speaker. Presiding over one of the most-hated Congressional majorities in history, with only 19 percent of respondents expressing approval of the House in a Dec. 14 Gallup poll, Ryan serves as the embodiment of much of the failures of the pre-Trump Republican Party. By sacrificing any semblance of competent governance of social decency for a shot at a Supreme Court seat and tax cuts, Ryan and his fellow Republicans should feel deeply ashamed of themselves. 

Selling out the barest semblance of values to Trump in order to get a unified Republican front wasn’t even really that effective at the end of the day. The Affordable Care Act is still alive and well, entitlement reform remains a far-flung Heritage Foundation fantasy and all governmental oxygen is currently being sucked out of the room by the Robert Muller investigation. Perhaps the Faustian bargain Ryan and company struck with Trump didn’t account for his staggering legislative and executive incompetency.