On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that he would not be seeking re-election and would retire at the end of his term in 2019. This has huge national implications, of course: The GOP will have lost a major fundraiser and party leader, Republicans and Democrats see Ryan’s announcement as another sign that Democrats are about to stampede all over the GOP during the midterm elections, and Donald Trump will have lost one of his most shameless and reliable suck-ups.
However, there are local implications, too. By not running for re-election, Ryan has potentially left his party in the hands of a white nationalist, which is about as fitting a legacy as possible for him and the GOP in 2018.
Despite being the speaker of the House, Ryan was actually being targeted by the Democratic Party and he faced a real challenge from Democrat Randy “Iron Stache” Bryce—whose name sounds like that of an upcoming Game of Thrones character. Bryce, a local ironworker, had raised more than $2.6 million as of the last campaign finance report in December 2017, and that number will likely jump considerably by the next report.
On the Republican side, there usually wouldn’t be a challenger to someone in leadership like Paul Ryan, but Ryan had two challengers there as well: Nick Polce, a former Green Beret with only $4,000 in the bank, and Paul Nehlen.
Nehlen is a proud white nationalist whose rants against Jews, Muslims and any nonwhite Christian people in America would place him right at home with quite a few past and current members of the current White House.
Nehlen, a small-business owner in Wisconsin, challenged Ryan back in 2016 and was widely supported by the “alt-right,” Steve Bannon and Breitbart. His racist résumé is as impressive as it is varied. He’s been a very, very busy white nationalist man.
Nehlen actively supported former Alabama Senate candidate and accused pedophile Roy Moore; he was a notorious Twitter troll who often used the #ItsOkayToBeWhite hashtag in response to any major stories of racial injustice on the news, as well.
When critical press about his activities appeared on CNN and other news outlets, he accused the reporters of being Jews and posted a series of anti-Semitic memes and stories. Nehlen even sent a tweet comparing soon-to-be Princess Meghan Markle to the Neanderthal “Cheddar Man,” an action that got him banned from Twitter in February. Mind you, that wasn’t enough to erode his support from the “alt-right” until just recently.
He began feuding with other far-right trolls, perhaps over the best way to fold one’s khakis before a weekend march, and that began his downward slide. Last fall, Breitbart pronounced that Nehlen was “dead to them” after Bannon caught wind of the candidate appearing on a white nationalist podcast. Mind you, that may be the equivalent of R. Kelly saying he’s withdrawn support for Bill Cosby because “he couldn’t keep his business in the closet.”
Just this month, Nehlen was kicked off the “alt-right” Facebook and Twitter alternative Gab for exposing a notorious white nationalist Twitter troll’s true identity. Bear in mind, as bad as these things may sound, Nehlen has still raised more than $160,000 for his congressional campaign, a fairly impressive number given that at one point he was challenging the sitting House speaker in his own backyard.
With Ryan’s retirement, most political analysts have flipped the take on Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District from being a safe GOP seat to “leans Democratic” or “toss-up,” which makes it unclear just what the Wisconsin GOP might decide to do with the race.
Perhaps Republicans will throw their money and support behind Nick Polce, or run another candidate to stop Nehlen just to avoid the embarrassment of having a right-wing white nationalist be the party nominee.
Or they may choose to abandon the seat as a lost cause, which could mean that Nehlen succeeds Ryan as the GOP nominee for Wisconsin’s 1st District, and even though he would likely lose, it would speak volumes about the standards of the Republican Party in 2018.
The filing deadline to be a candidate for the district is June 1, and the Wisconsin primary is in August.
I would say that it’s a shame Paul Ryan could be handing over his party to white nationalists, but that’s essentially what he did when he threw in his lot with Donald Trump.
So I guess at least the citizens of Wisconsin will know that Ryan was consistent until the end and willing to let any kind of racist, violent or misogynistic person wear the GOP cap so long as it was politically expedient for him.