The real Ronald Reagan

Jacob Weisberg has written a new, concise biography of Ronald Reagan.  Nice NYT Op-Ed to share his key points.  Now, let’s be clear, Ronald Reagan was very much a small-government conservative.  What today’s Republicans forget, though, much to their party’s detriment, is that Reagan was a pragamatist.  Good stuff from Weisberg:

HE supported the biggest amnesty bill in history for illegal immigrants, advocated gun control, used Keynesian stimulus to jump-start the economy, favored personal diplomacy even with the country’s sworn enemies and instituted tax increases in six of the eight years of his presidency.

He was Ronald Reagan.

The core beliefs that got Reagan elected and re-elected were conservative: lower taxes, smaller government and a stronger, more assertive military. But Reagan was also a pragmatist, willing to compromise, able to improvise in pursuit of his goals and, most of all, eager to expand his party’s appeal…

The current field of Republican presidential candidates invokes Reagan as a patron saint, but the characteristics that made him a successful politician seem lost on them. Instead, they’ve turned his party into a swamp of nativism, ideological extremism and pessimism about the country’s future, in direct opposition to Reagan’s example. [emphasis mine] And they’ve transformed primary season into a reality show of insults, betrayals and open feuds, defying the so-called 11th Commandment that Reagan espoused: Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

Once in office, Reagan said that anytime he could get 70 percent of what he wanted from a legislature, he’d take it. Today’s congressional Republicans won’t settle even for 99 percent: Their mentality has shifted away from having policies and governing and toward a kind of bitter-end obstructionism.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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