Thursday, September 08, 2011

What would Reagan think of today's Republicans?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Or perhaps the question should be, What would today's Republicans think of Reagan? Not "Ronald Reagan," not Reagan the Republican Myth/Saint/God, not the Reagan of conservative legend, but the real Reagan and what he stood for)?

Basically, they wouldn't much care for him. As the L.A. Times's Mark Barabak reminds us:

As president, the conservative icon approved several tax increases to deal with a soaring budget deficit, repeatedly boosted the nation's debt limit, signed into law a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and, despite his anti-Washington rhetoric, oversaw an increase in the size and spending of the federal government. Before that, as California governor, he enacted what at the time was the largest state tax increase in American history. He also signed into law one of the nation's most permissive abortion bills; any Republican who tried that today would be cast out of the party.

The fact that Reagan often took the actions grudgingly speaks to what, by modern Republican standards, may be one of the greatest heresies of all: At bottom, Reagan was a pragmatist, willing, when necessary, to cut a deal and compromise.

Check that. Republicans would loathe him, vilify him, and seek to purge him from their ranks, much the way they've done with any number of old-school, pragmatic conservatives, not to mention moderates, hardly any of whom are left.

Just keep all this in mind when Republicans, as they always do, turn to the Reagan hagiography and fall all over each other trying to score points by pumping up their Reaganesque bona fides.

Reagan himself had that commandment about never criticizing a fellow Republican. But the Republican Party has moved so far to the right as to make even Reagan, that conservative icon, look like a middle-of-the-road wimp, not to mention a dangerous heretic. 

One suspects that Reagan would not be amused.

(photo: Ronald Reagan Library)

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