When the pride of Wisconsin resigns, when Paul Ryan puts down the gavel and exits the speaker’s office, an era will end.
It wasn’t long ago that Wisconsin wielded oversized influence in national politics. At the beginning of the decade, the Washington Post reported that the state “could shape the direction of the GOP.”
And for a while, America’s Dairyland really did a decent job cultivating conservative talent. In 2011, Reince Priebus took the helm of the Republican National Committee. Scott Walker moved into the governor’s mansion, and seemed like a promising presidential candidate. Most promising and most well-known, Paul Ryan won the chairmanship of the House Budget Committee.
Boy wonders, each under 40 years old, they were the ones destined to lead a more modern Grand Old Party.
But that was in 2011. A lot has changed. Walker became the first governor to survive a recall election then burned brightly during the 2016 presidential primary only to fizzle quickly. Priebus took the most unlikely of candidates to the finish line only to be booted out of the White House — a young chief of staff cut long before his time. Ryan ran alongside Mitt Romney in 2012, then returned to Congress to accept a job he didn’t want as speaker of the House.
All had promise, and all have plenty of politically viable years ahead of them. But Walker and Priebus have been tossed out of the limelight. If early rumors are true, Ryan will walk away from it at the end of 2018.
When he does, Wisconsin will find its place back with the rest of the states.