Emerging from two years of relative silence, former House Speaker Paul Ryan has joined the fight against Donald Trump urging fellow conservatives to reject the former president’s divisive politics and those Republican leaders who emulate him.
Ryan made his remarks during a Thursday evening address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. He was critical of both Republicans and Democrats though he saved his sharpest barbs for Trump, who is by most measures the leader of the modern-day Republican Party.
“It was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end,” Ryan said, referring to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump inspired on Jan. 6.
“Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads,” Ryan continued. “And here’s the reality that we have to face: If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere. Voters looking for Republican leaders want to see independence and mettle. They will not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago.”
It’s unclear how much impact Ryan’s words will have in the broader fight for the future of the GOP if any. Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, was among the most respected Republicans in the nation’s capital before Trump’s rise, but two years out of office, his open contempt for Trump is not in line with the vast majority of Republican voters and elected officials.