President Donald Trump greets House Speaker Paul Ryan at the National Republican Congressional Committee March Dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2018. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
May 27 (UPI) -- Former Republican House Speaker and onetime vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan returned to the public eye Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with a speech in which he cautioned his party about the dangers of so-called Trumpism.
The former Wisconsin congressman spoke at the library in Simi Valley, Calif., as part of its "Time for Choosing," speaker series.
After leaving Congress in 2019, Ryan has largely laid low on the national political scene and has rarely criticized former President Donald Trump. During his speech, however, he gave a more direct message to his party about being overly beholden to one person -- or those who act like him.
"So, once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads," Ryan said.
Despite almost regaining the House, the Republican Party has been left powerless following the general election of last year, losing both the presidency and the Senate, he said, adding that "even worst it was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end."
"And here's one reality 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 are not impressed by cadres of yes men and "flatters flocking to Mar-a-Lago," he said, referring to Trump's Florida resort.
Ryan was criticized in 2019 by Trump, who said his record as House Speaker was "atrocious" and that he was a "lame duck failure."
The Wisconsin Republican, however, praised Trump for creating "increased revenue from a broader tax base, capital and jobs coming back to America."
He said President Joe Biden won the presidency through conservative voters seeking a politician to unify the party who has only unified the Democratic Party by "surrendering to its regressive base."
Ryan railed against Biden's taxes, and attempted to frame his six months as president as a failure to the American people who wanted to elect "a nice guy" who would depolarize politics by moving to the center and instead elected a man pursuing the most leftist agenda of his lifetime.
Ryan said being the opposition can be an opportunity to unite a conservative movement that has achieved goals going back to the Reagan administration.
He did praise Trump for brining new voters to the Republican Party but noted that he is no longer president and their concerns that caused them to flip still exist.
"Take the populace energy of the recent years, combine it with the core principles of conservatism and the result will be a coalition even broader and stronger than yesterday's Republican party," he said.
Ryan also emphasized that Republicans should move away from "every little cultural battle" because they distract from traditionally uniting policy issues.
"As the left gets more 'woke,' the rest of America is getting weary," he said. "This stuff is exhausting."
Ryan, 51, was Sen. Mitt Romney's Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012. Former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden were ultimately re-elected. After leaving Congress, Ryan has joined multiple corporate boards and the faculty of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. He's also launched a conservative nonprofit called American Idea Foundation.