In 2012, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist argued that the only thing the GOP needed in its next president was “enough working digits to handle a pen.” More specifically, Norquist wanted a president who would use those digits to sign Paul Ryan’s austerity budget. On Thursday, the Speaker of the House endorsed Norquist’s argument — by (belatedly) endorsing Donald Trump.
In an op-ed for his hometown newspaper, Ryan announced that the House GOP caucus would spend the next month “introducing a series of policy proposals that address the American people’s top priorities.” The Speaker does not detail the proposals, but from his thumbnail sketches they appear to entail cutting taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, repealing Obamacare and most environmental regulations, and repeating the words radical Islamic terrorism until ISIS spontaneously combusts. Anyhow, after touting his party’s innovative policy vision, Ryan asks himself what kind of president would be most likely to sign off on his wish list.
“One person who we know won’t support it is Hillary Clinton,” Ryan concludes. “To enact these ideas, we need a Republican president willing to sign them into law.”
Enter Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life … But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue,” Ryan writes. “Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”
Trump’s digits might be short (and he might be an authoritarian demagogue with transparent contempt for the norms of liberal democracy), but those stubby fingers can handle a pen. For Paul Ryan, that’s enough.