You know, man, you know. And you know that you know. And you know that you choose not to act on what you know: that Donald Trump is a menace to the country you love and that you are one of the few people in the world who could persuade Republican electors not to cast their votes for him. I don’t have to rehearse for you the reasons why he is dangerously unfit for the power he will receive unless you act. You already know the reasons so well that I don’t even have to tell you all the ways that I know that you know, all the things you have said and not said that mean we all know that you know.

I watched a video of you yesterday, in which you were giddy with excitement about the opportunity your party now has to run the country. I can understand the appeal of the power coming your way. You believe in your ideas. You believe they are better than my ideas, and now you have the ability to make those ideas reality for the whole country, even in some cases the whole world. While the media, American citizens, and the world watch Trump’s tweets, gaffes, and head-scratchers with rapt attention, you quietly prepare to run the country, fully and reasonably expecting that the majority of our attention and activism will focus for the next four years on preventing an outright fascist dictatorship; at the end of it, if we survive, people will open their eyes and find that while they were fighting fascism, you and your friends were creating the conservative paradise that you actually want. We all hope that Trump will lose his reelection bid in 2020, and then you will be ready to run for president in 2024—I’m sure you can see it all now, laid out before you in your imagination. But whether or not your life follows this triumphant trajectory, history will remember you for what you do now.

This moment is an unbelievable opportunity for your party, a chance to make the world match your ideas, and it will weaken the party if you ask the Republican electors to vote for someone else. I get that. But there are other ideas at stake, the ideas and values we actually all agree about, the ones we learned about in grade school: democracy, decency, kindness, fairness, honesty. The other ideas can wait—your side and my side can continue to do battle over them for the next several decades, and we likely will—but now is the moment to fight for democracy, decency, kindness, fairness, and honesty.

You are now at the most important moment of your life, and you have to choose between your political party and your nation. Someday, you will look back on your life, and you will remember that there was a time when you had an opportunity that few people ever have, the opportunity to make the world a decisively better place in a single day, in a single speech, in a single moment. How will you use this moment?



One thought on “An Open Letter to Speaker Paul Ryan

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