Speaker Paul Ryan
has joined the fight against Donald Trump
after two years of relative silence, urging fellow conservatives
to reject the former president's divisive politics
and those Republican leaders who emulate him.
Ryan delivered his remarks during a Thursday evening address at the Ronald Reagan
Presidential Library in California
, where he was critical of both Republicans
, though he saved his most venomous jabs for Trump, who is widely regarded as the modern-day Republican Party
“It was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end,” Ryan said, referring to Trump’s instigation of the deadly attack
on the US Capitol
on January 6
“Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads,” Ryan continued. “And here’s the reality that we must face: If the conservative cause is dependent 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.
Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, was among the most respected Republicans in the nation's capital prior to Trump's rise, but his open contempt for Trump is not shared by the vast majority of Republican voters and elected officials two years out of office.
A small but growing group of anti-Trump Republicans has struggled to steer the party in a new direction, even as Trump continues to promote the same false claims — that he would have won the 2020 election
if it hadn't been for widespread voter fraud — that sparked the Capitol insurgency. At the same time, Trump has openly considered running for president again in 2024.
Rep. Lauren Boebert
, R-Colo., one of Trump's most vocal allies on Capitol Hill, slammed Ryan on Twitter
ahead of his speech.
“It’s truly amazing that Paul Ryan, who is the reason the GOP
lost the House in 2018, is going to come out today and blame Trump for the problems in the GOP,” she said, referring to another Trump critic, Rep. Liz Cheney
Ryan spoke Thursday as the first speaker in the Reagan Library's "Time for Choosing" series, which will later feature 2024 Republican presidential candidates such as former Vice President Mike Pence
, former United Nations
Ambassador Nikki Haley
, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Those close to Ryan, 51, do not expect him to run for public office again, but they do believe he is paying attention and is concerned about the party's future. Ryan also serves on the board of Fox Corp.
, which owns Fox News
In his remarks, Ryan characterized President Joe Biden
's agenda as "more leftist than any president in my lifetime" and warned of exploding federal spending under the Democrats who control Washington, as well as the GOP's interest in culture wars and "identity politics" at the expense of conservative principles.
“Culture matters, absolutely, but our party must be defined by more than a squabble over the latest grievance or perceived slight,” he said, adding that “we must not let them take precedence over solutions based on principle” to improve people
Ryan went on to say that the Republican Party has a chance to win elections
and address critical policy challenges if it does not get in its own way.
“If we fail this test, it will be because the progressive left will have won by default,” he said. “It will be because the conservative cause... lost its way and followed the left into the trap of identity politics, defining itself by resentments rather than by ideals. It will be because we confused reactionary skirmishes in the culture wars with a coherent agenda.