The Republican Party traditionally and now the Tea Party love to celebrate the life and times of Ronald Reagan. To the so-called “conservatives” amongst us, Ronald Reagan is the patriarch of all modern conservatism. To be a “Reagan Republican” is about the highest badge of honor one can give oneself or the highest compliment that one GOP’er can give to another.
And it is with good reason. Ronald Reagan DID revitalize and bring back conservatism in politics in the 1970’s and 1980’s in America. At least on a rhetorical level. Reagan caused America to rethink massive social spending just for the sake of it and taxing just because we can. To the wealthy, Reagan is a war hero, in a sense. He defeated the 70% tax bracket and replaced it with an ultra low 28% bracket for the most privileged amongst us. He broke unions, something anyone on the side of management loved. He restored that sense of American exceptionalism at a time when morale was just rock bottom in America. He preached and practiced peace thru strength which is an easy policy to get behind.
Ronald Reagan was, like him or not, the man for the times. The 1980’s needed Ronald Reagan.
But if Ron was to run again, in some parallel universe where all was the same except it was 2010 and a still alive and kicking Ronald Reagan was seeking say, the governorship of California. I doubt in this Tea Party frenzied toxic political environment, would Reagan even stand a chance. And i’m not even talking as a general election candidate where the choice for those from right of center to the far right is a far more distinct one, at least politically, but as a GOP primary candidate. Let’s look at what might unfold:
His opponent, Carly Fiorina might take some of the following tacts in shutting the Reagan machine down …
• She might 1st point out that Reagan, being the former Governor and POTUS, would be attacked as an incumbent, part of the “Washington swamp.”
• 2nd, there’s Reagan’s tax policies. Reagan not only raised taxes, he did it a whole bunch. We all know about the highly touted tax decrease of 1981 that sent millionaires to dancing in the streets. But in 1982 there was the Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, that rolled back about a third of his ‘81 tax cuts, raised corporate tax rates, and to a lesser extent income tax rates. Raised taxes by almost 1 percent of GDP, which at that time was the largest percentage in peacetime increase ever.
• In 1982, he also raised gas taxes. I wonder how Sarah Palin would comment on that. Or would it be ok when Ron did it, but not ok when some “evil –socialist – democrat who hates America” does it, or even suggests it when brainstorming.
• In 1983 Reagan raised payroll taxes on all lower and middle income taxpayers to a level that was higher than before the 1981 tax cuts. But rest assured, the tax rate on the wealthy was unharmed.
• In 1984, Americans got hit with the Reagan signed “deficit reduction” tax hike.
• After being re-elected after mocking Walter Mondale for being honest in the area of tax policies, Reagan went on to increase taxes in 1985, 86 and 87 by billions of dollars.
• Carly Fiorina would probably want to show how she is on the side of military families by pointing out that Reagan froze military pay for all the enlisted personnel during his tenure.
• Ronald Reagan “cut and run” when terrorists directly attacked American marines, killing hundreds during his tenure.
• And as Governor, taxes were increased as well, twice.
• And one would think that with Reagan’s libertarian talk on taxes, spending would decrease as well, right? Well, no … spending increased 177% in Reagan’s stint as Governor.
• And by the way, it’s not just those “tree huggin hippies” out in California who gave a damn about breathing clean air. As Governor, Reagan pushed and signed California’s very 1st auto emission standard laws. But environmental regulation is bad, right?
• Also, as governor, Reagan protected the spectacular John Muir Trail in the Sierra from highway builders and Central Valley business interests. He blocked dam building on the Eel and Feather rivers. He and Republican Gov. Paul Laxalt of Nevada set aside their rhetoric damning centralized, intrusive government and created a bi-state agency to control growth at Lake Tahoe. I can see the Fiorina Tea Party inspired ads now talking about the evil socialist who wants to take your liberties away cause one of her billionaire buddies can’t build their dream house or factory on protected land.
• Reagan left Washington with a then historical record debt. Makes one start thinking about phrases involving sailors who may have had a few too many.
• Reagan never did anything serious about curbing abortion laws … ever.
• Reagan protected “liberal Hollywood” from important congressional inquiries in the area of national security. Did he just hate America or was he just working for his commie buddies that he was “pal’in around with.
• Reagan negotiated with our enemies, without precondition.
• Reagan also “pal’ed around with pinko commie democrats after work hours … Drudge Report would probably have a field day with that one.
And with Carly Fiorina’s massively deep pockets, creating a political narrative to attack Mr Reagan would be pretty easy. I doubt Ronald Reagan, the reported “inspiration” behind the whole tea party movement, could even get double digits in his own party’s primary today.
So the next time you want to invoke Ron’s or anyone else’s name in defense of any ideological purity, remember that in real life, ideologies, be them left, right or other tend to trip us up more than provide us solutions.
And in the end, governing is much bigger than politics and ideological rhetoric. Governing is about pragmatism, compromise and reality over rhetoric. Holding an ideology too close to one’s heart is a sure way to miss the boat in a world where reason, logic and pragmatism must be held higher than ideological “religions” that may sound great when around the water cooler, but don’t work so well when imposed on the American population. And certainly serve no good purpose when used just to block everything and anything.