Janesville, WI., November 11, 2088 – For Hillary Ryan-Abidi, descendant of one of the most infamous political names in Wisconsin history, the post mortems after her defeat this week in the state’s 1st Congressional District weren’t complicated. Heavy family baggage.
After all, her great-grandfather was Paul Ryan, who over 70 years ago was the Speaker of the House and leader of a long-defunct political party known as the Republicans, a man regarded as presidential material before his ill-fated decision to endorse Donald Trump, who became President in 2017 and quickly brought the nation to the edge of collapse.
Under Trump, a billionaire businessman who was more pit bull than politician, the country endured a military and fiscal crisis that nearly ended the U.S.’s then 238-year-old republic.
After initially denouncing Trump during the 2016 campaign as a man “not what this country stands for,” Paul Ryan, then the third highest elected official in the United States, succumbed to political pressure to support a candidate history regards as the most unqualified person ever to hold the presidency. That reversal fanned the flames of a political crisis which ultimately resulted in the breakup of the Republican party and began over 70 years of progressive Democratic governance.
It also brought decades of shame to the Ryan family.
“There were times growing up when I felt embarrassed, even humiliated, about the Ryan name,” Ryan-Abidi said. “And I still am.”
“When we came to the screen on my schoolpad about Paul Ryan, I would cringe,” added Ms. Ryan-Abidi’s brother who legally changed his name from Paul Ryan III on his 18th birthday, and requested anonymity to speak to reporters.
“Maybe my great-grandfather had once been a decent man,” added Ryan-Abidi, “but his solipsistic self-regard caused him to lose his moral compass.”
After his under-pressure retirement from politics Paul Ryan eventually turned on Trump.
“I think it was my own overweening ambition that led me to support a man who was clearly a bigoted, unbalanced and ultimately despicable human being,” Ryan wrote in “Oops, My Bad,” his poorly received memoir. “I was wrong, terribly wrong.”
Too little, and way too late according to his granddaughter.
“He will be our family’s disgrace forever,” said Ryan-Abidi.
Illustrations by Ray Dougela