Today is one of the most important events of the 2016 cycle: the Trump-Ryan Summit.
The 'Capitol Conclave' will be an attempt at bridge building between Trump, the larger-than-life showman nominee and Ryan, the previous VP serious conservative policy wonk (and Speaker of the House). The two went at it when Ryan said he couldn't "yet" endorse Trump--much to the surprise or Rience Pribus and the ire of Trump.don't expect a Ryan endorsement of Trump today, but concern growing Trump might run "against the House if he doesn't, @jonkarl reports @gma— Rick Klein (@rickklein) May 12, 2016
Today we'll see the first sign as to whether the two GOP luminaries(?) can take the first steps in putting Humpty Dumpty back together.
Or, wait, that's kind of bullshit.
Why This MattersThe outcome of the meeting--either fake accord or a non-resolution ("We made first steps!") with the requisite hopeful tone ("Trump is much more thoughtful in person than on the stump!" and "I love the Speaker. Great guy!")--will set the media narrative for the next few weeks.
The media narrative is gonna be pretty important from here on out.
The Both-Sides EffectThe general belief on the right is that The Media carried Trump to victory--but will now turn on him in the general. Vox thinks this isn't true. They point out, correctly, that The Media is generally inclined to see the election as a contest of equals--a run of two strong and nearly equivalent competitors against each other.
Trump, on substance, clarity, and qualifications is outside the normal range of politics to a startling degree. Clinton, however corrupt or Wall-Street or whatever, isn't. If The Media treats them as equivalent it is going to create a cross-fire and domino-effect of bizarre underlying unstated assumptions which will warp all coverage of the campaign until November (and maybe beyond). It'll also legitimize white nationalism . . . so there's that.
Will this happen?
Well, it won't so long as there's a GOP Civil War going on. In this case the narrative will be that the GOP is divided--historically so--and therefore the two sides (unless Sanders runs 3rd party or something) are not equal.
A big piece of that is Paul Ryan.
So long as Ryan is not endorsing Trump, there is sufficient blood in the water to sustain a narrative. If the party manages to unify convincingly, the media will have to sort out a Trump v. Clinton narrative to construct their stories around.
What About Romney? #NeverTrump?Romney launched another broadside at Donald Trump about his tax returns (which is . . . ironic? Probably). The #NeverTrump faction is still hanging on. Could this be enough for the media to keep looking at? Maybe.
The thing about Ryan is that he was always a unification candidate. Romney picked him because he could appeal to both Tea Party guys and more mainstream Republicans. He was recruited to Speaker of the House because he was the one dude people could agree on.
Romney and #NeverTrump don't have the same credibility to disagree that Paul Ryan does--and Ryan's position as Speaker of the House is also singular in that respect.
As of now, Trump and Ryan have met and the response was, not unexpectedly, a push. Ryan described the meeting as very pleasant--and that there were grounds for agreement and disagreement. His demeanor was hopeful and forward-looking--but he did not come out of the meeting endorsing Trump. The question is "Why not?"
How'd The Meeting Go?
Presumably Paul Ryan has a set of concerns:
- Keeping his job and his Speakership: For this to work, he needs to endorse Trump to the degree necessary to stop the House from rebelling against him.
- Keeping Republicans on the ballot from losing their races.
- His principles.
On #1 and #2 he has to weigh Trump's potential. If Trump is a viable candidate, he can endorse him and keep his majority. If Trump is a disaster, he has to maneuver. He's probably wanting to wait a while and see what happens.
For point #3, Trump's stated platform is antithetical to his. Of course Trump's changes rapidly so maybe all he has to do is wait. The fact is that Trump doesn't really have positions--he has negotiations. He might have goals. This sounds nice and flexible but the problem is that we don't really know what his goals are. Is it zero illegal immigration across the Mexican border? Or just a reduction. In the first case, we might get an attempt at a wall. In the second? Who knows.
Ryan probably will find that he can cut a deal with Trump on a bunch of things--but will that be enough? Probably: yes. #3--even for Ryan, probably pales in comparison to #1 and #2.
The Media, as an entity, doesn't like Donald Trump--but they are unlikely to go full out declaring the GOP party to be racists fools and the Democrats to be, well, Democrats. That would violate several core principles such as continuing to make money and expanding their reader-base. Also: appearing impartial.
That will likely work in Trump's favor. On the other hand, unless he can enforce his will convincingly on the GOP Establishment, the press will have another narrative they do like and can run with: GOP Civil War. If that manages to hang around it'll leave a mark.