The Ryan reverberations

Paul Ryan's departure could elevate intraparty tensions on both sides of the aisle

Wednesday was just another day in the nation’s capital. Which is to say that the president seemed increasingly unhinged and the chaos and fear that he has unleashed within his own party prompted the most powerful member of the House to announce he’s throwing in the towel and going home.

Paul Ryan says his decision to give up the Speaker’s post was prompted by a wish to spend more time with his family in Wisconsin. It seems more driven by his wish to escape the dysfunctional family that his party now resembles and the increasing chances that its erratic leader in the White House may cause the House to flip to Democratic control.

Of the going-home-to-be-with-my-family line, the Herald’s Joe Battenfeld writes, “if you believe that, we have some moldy cheese from Wisconsin to sell you.”

For Massachusetts members of Congress, the convulsions on Capitol Hill are anything but upsetting. As CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl writes, a Democratic takeover of the House following this fall’s midterm elections would catapult lots of the state’s all-Democratic delegation from the wilderness to key positions of power. “From a Democratic perspective, it’s all good,” Rep. Michael Capuano tells him.

Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield would be poised to become chairman of the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee. Rep. Jim McGovern of Worcester would be in line to helm the powerful Rules Committee. Capuano, a 10-term veteran from Somerville, and Rep. Steve Lynch of South Boston would likely snag key subcommittee chairmanships.

Capuano may be right that the news is all good for Democrats in the bigger scheme of things. But his side’s rise in polls seems to have as much to do with how unpopular Trump as it does with a fervent embrace of the Democratic Party, which is struggling to figure out its message going forward and to find leaders who will be effective in carrying it.

In that way, the Ryan news could elevate intraparty tensions on both sides of the aisle. The debate over whether Nancy Pelosi is the best flag-bearer for House Democrats is one thing when it’s a fight over who stands as the House minority leader that Republicans regularly steamroll. Ryan’s announcement — and the prospect of a Democratic House takeover that helped prompt it — lends more urgency to the question of Democratic leadership and who would be best to take the gavel as Speaker.

With some Republicans running and fundraising on an “anti-Pelosi message,” there may be fresh calls within the Democratic caucus to replace her now, writes the Herald’s Kimberly Atkins. But some Democratic wise-guys tell Atkins that Rep. Seth Moulton and others who have been itching to ditch the 78-year-old Pelosi would do well to hold pat and let the focus be on Republican infighting.

“The Democrats would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley says of any move against Pelosi before the November election.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The arguments that the party needs fresh, younger leadership are also butting up against a wave of interest in women candidates — and respect for those like Pelosi who have blazed a trail for them.

Should Pelosi go?, Jim Braude asked Jesse Mermell, former communications director for Gov. Deval Patrick, last night on WGBH’s Greater Boston. “I’m quite genuinely undecided,” said Mermell, who has championed both women and younger people stepping up in politics.