In Facebook postings and email exchanges with conservatives friends leading up to tomorrow’s Primary Day elections, a persistent theme emerges: the desire by Republicans for another galvanizing Ronald Reagan figure.Â In 30 years, the Republicans have gone from a positive message from a popular and likeable leader (“It’s Morning in America”) to a rudderless ship steered by Teabaggers who don’t know they got a federal tax cut last year and led by an angryy conservative talk show host who’s “I want the president to fail” message would have been crucified as “un-American” if the president was George W. Bush and a weepy talk show host who wants his country back while making non-sensical connections of massive conspiracy theories.
The LA Times George Skelton echoes what I have been saying for months; if Ronald Reagan were a candidate today, he’d have been thrown under the bus by his own party for the way he governed and policies he enacted as governor of California and as president of the United States.Â So this slef-proclaimed “Reagan conservatives” like Chuck DeVore and Steve Choi and Meg Whitman clearly don’t know who exactly they’re talking about when they invoke Reagan’s name.
From Skelton’s column today:
Some wannabe governor willing to spend big for a worthy cause, raise taxes if needed, protect the environment from exploiters chanting “economic growth,” be tolerant on social issues, even support amnesty for hard-working illegal immigrants.
Too bad such a gubernatorial candidate probably couldn’t be nominated by GOP voters in California.
But wait! One such candidate was: Ronald Reagan. Nominated and elected governor and president. The classic conservative icon.
As governor, Reagan was the biggest California spender of the last half century. Under him, state spending leaped 177%. And as president, he spent like the proverbial drunken sailor to expand the Navy and the nuclear missile arsenal while winning the Cold War. He left Washington with a then-record national debt.
His first year as governor, Reagan raised taxes equal to 30% of the state general fund, still a modern record. And as president, he increased taxes several times, although conservatives pretend to remember only the one big tax cut.
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 aversion to centralized, intrusive government and created a bi-state agency to control growth at Lake Tahoe.
Reagan signed legislation creating the California Air Resources Board, leading to the nation’s first tailpipe emissions standards.
Now Republicans Whitman and Poizner advocate postponing implementation of a law to control greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, Reagan would be tagged by his party as an environmental extremist.
The list goes on.
As governor, Reagan signed the nation’s then most liberal abortion rights bill. (He later called it a mistake.) He opposed a ballot initiative that would have permitted the firing of teachers for being gay.
President Reagan signed a bill granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.
“I called Stu Spencer, Reagan’s career-long political guru. Spencer thinks he still could be nominated in today’s climate of extremism.
“His personality would overcome a lot of these problems,” the semi-retired consultant says. “Personality and emotion are 70% of the game. And he had both. He had the ability to evoke emotion.”
They’re called leadership qualities â€” the ability to connect and inspire â€” and they seem lacking in today’s candidates.
And unlike Whitman, Reagan not only had been a consistent voter, he was politically active for years before running for governor. He had a fully developed set of philosophical beliefs and wasn’t likely to be positioned by polling or political pressure.
“Right-wing types,” Spencer says, “always just loved Reagan and overlooked all these things that he did. They still just won’t accept the fact that he raised taxes. They get all upset and don’t want to hear about it.”
The only thing I could add to George’s excellent column is again the quote from Reagan himself.Â “Facts are stupid things.” -at the 1988 Republican National Convention, attempting to quote John Adams, who said, “Facts are stubborn things”