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Aspen Ideas Festival: Former Speaker Paul Ryan

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Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the Aspen Ideas Festival with PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff.
Leigh Vogel | The Aspen Institute

Former Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about current events, President Trump's re-election prospects and the future of the GOP.

He said — primarily because of the strong economy — 2020 is "President Trump's election to lose." 

Ryan said Trump's appeal is that he "stands up for the forgotten man" and "he's not taking any crap." 

While he said the polarization in politics is terrible, he believes the "system works" and the three branches of American government are strong. Ryan is now on the board of the Laboratory for Economic Opportunity at Notre Dame, and will be teaching a course on political polarization there this fall. 

In his January 2019 "farewell address" to the Congress, Ryan said that "helping people lift themselves out of poverty is a personal mission" and he challenged the Republican party to "not let this drift from your consciousness."

His foundation is called "The American Idea Foundation," Ryan said, and the purpose is to create upward mobility and develop better anti-poverty programs. He said we must measure the outcome and results of programs and "go with what works." 

Ryan said he hoped the GOP was not becoming a "protectionist party," and that he believes in the importance of trade. He said both parties are to blame for the controversy over immigration, but said we must change our asylum laws. "People see lawlessness, porous borders and an influx of heroin" and want something done about it. 

Ryan said he has long believed in an incremental approach to changing the immigration laws, but "the politics have destroyed this issue."  

The Republican Party, Ryan says, should "believe in aspirational, inclusive politics ... based on hope, optimism, growth and inclusiveness ... not angst, emotion and fear."

But he added that "the kind of politics that I've always believed in is not ascendant these days." 

He warned against electing politicians who "leapfrog the  meritocracy" and suggested that experience matters. 

Ryan was interviewed by Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 23, 2019.

To listen to the interview, click the audio player above.