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Former House Speaker Paul Ryan Talks Coronavirus, Reopening Economy at IOP Fast Forum

The Institute of Politics has transition to virtual Fast Forums.
The Institute of Politics has transition to virtual Fast Forums. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Simon J. Levien and Austin W. Li, Crimson Staff Writers

Former Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan spoke about the pandemic-stricken economy, the future of the Republican party, and U.S.-China relations to a digital audience at an Institute of Politics Fast Forum Monday.

The Fast Forums are a shorter virtual continuation of JFK Jr. Forums — formerly hour-long conversations with elected officials, political operatives, journalists, and activists.

Public leadership professor and former president of the American Enterprise Institute Arthur C. Brooks co-hosted the forum with Ryan, who currently teaches at the University of Notre Dame and is an AEI fellow.

With the United States stock market crashing amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Ryan said he is “frankly very, very worried about the economy.”

“Deflationary spiral has been my biggest concern, which is a liquidity crisis becomes a solvency crisis. And then thousands and thousands of businesses go bankrupt,” he added.

In terms of a federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, he said he hopes states can start reopening on a “case-by-case” basis following the implementation of increased antibody testing.

“It is not a good time for limited-government conservatives. No two ways about it,” he said, regarding the importance of the federal response.

Reflecting on the political landscape more broadly, Ryan also said he doesn’t know what the future of the Republican Party in the post-Trump era will hold.

“There’s going to be a big fight for the soul of the conservative movement in the post-Trump era,” he said. “It’s either going to happen in one year or in five years time. There’s going to be a huge soul-searching after the president leaves as to what is the future of conservatism.”

“And it’s going to be along these different populist lines — Reagan conservatism, classical liberal conservatism, paleocons, reformicons,” he added.

Ryan said he is worried about the political polarization in the country, citing different responses to opening up the country.

“I visited the government of Oklahoma yesterday,” he said, adding that he thought “most of Oklahoma can open.”

“They have — I think — 504 cases in the entire state,” he said. In fact, Oklahoma has confirmed more than 3,200 cases of coronavirus as of Monday evening.

Ryan also said differences in infection rates and experiences with the pandemic form the basis for discrepancies in attitudes toward relaxing social distancing guidelines between more Republican rural areas and Democratic urban cities.

He added that he predicts “major realignments” in U.S.-China relations as a result of the crisis.

“We have to do a better job of repatriating the supply chain so we do not have to be so dependent on others,” he said. “I’m a pretty free trade guy, but the one exception to that is China, because China was not playing by the rules.”

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at simon.levien@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.

—Staff writer Austin W. Li can be reached at austin.li@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @austinwli.

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IOPPoliticsHarvard Kennedy SchoolCoronavirus