Sunday, July 03, 2011

If Republicans are looking for another Ronald Reagan, perhaps they should look no further than Barack Obama

Steve Benen, as many others have, makes the connection. Basically, Obama is very much in the mold of Reagan, policy-wise, particularly with respect to taxes and the economy (though also, I would add, with respect to foreign policy):

Mike Huckabee recently said, "Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had a nearly identical take last year, arguing Reagan "would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

I agree, but what does that tell contemporary GOP officials? What should Republicans take away from the fact that, by 2011 standards, their party would dismiss their demigod as a tax-raising, amnesty-loving, pro-bailout, cut-and-run, big-government Democrat?

Or more to the point, doesn't it bother Republicans, just a little, that Barack Obama is more in line with the Reagan legacy than they are?

Given their utter lack of self-awareness, I doubt it does. Besides, their hagiography of Reagan is based largely on myth, on what they think Reagan was all about. Which is to say, they generally project themselves and their agenda onto Reagan and then revere him. It's not clear if they would revere the real Reagan, but probably not. After all, with their increasingly extremist ideology, they make him look like something of a moderate. 

So, yes, Obama is a lot like Reagan. But let's not overstate it. In terms of policy, Obama is very much a centrist who would have sought compromise with Reagan, just as he continues to seek compromise with Republicans (even if they clearly have no interest in compromise). And there would undoubtedly have been room for agreement between the two. (Who knows, Reagan may have supported Obama's health-care reform, not to mention the stimulus and bailouts, and may also have supported Obama's diplomatic-hawkish foreign/military policy. Surely Reagan would have agreed with Obama's conduct of the "war on terror," not to mention the Afghan War.)

But of course Obama is progressive in ways that Reagan never was. They may be somewhat similar in policy terms, but they are vastly different in style, image, and temperament, not to mention in broader historical terms. Both men can inspire, but Obama is more of a technocrat than Reagan ever was. And even if we grant that Obama is generally progressive, his policies are centrist and generally dismissive of progressivism, while Reagan was a movement conservative who played to the right and united the Republican Party as a party of ideological conservatism (even as his own policies often reflected a more conciliatory approach to politics, much like Obama's do).

Anyway, the point, I suppose, is that the Republican Party is really no longer the party of Reagan. As with so much else, Republicans can't grasp that basic reality.

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  • Pointing out Reagan raised taxes seven times in his eight years would be such a killer argument, but today‚Äôs radical Republicans see no need for complete purity in their icon. Reagan was then. This is now.

    By Anonymous Edvard M, at 11:40 AM  

  • The comparison with Reagan works the same as the comparison with Clinton. Obama is floating the boat of state. The trouble with that, of course, is that the boat is floating away from land. We've had a solid 30 years of that now. At what point do we see the failure?


    By Blogger Jersey McJones, at 8:38 PM  

  • Saying that Obama is anything like Ronald Reagan is a joke. They are polar opposites. You must be very uninformed or didn't live through the Ronald Regan administration as an adult, to say a stupid thing like that. But, if you're that feeble minded you probably hide the truth too, and won't let me post this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:58 AM  

  • Hey, I'll post it. I just wish you'd included your name so that your idiocy didn't have to hide behind anonymity.

    Are you paying attention at all to what's going on? Do you you have any idea how Obama's policies resemble Reagan's?

    Hey, it was Obama himself, back in the '08 campaign, who contrasted Reagan and Clinton, calling the former transformative and clearly putting himself at that side.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:39 PM  

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