Graham: Reagan Not Conservative Enough For Today’s G.O.P.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made headlines recently by declaring that Reagan wouldn’t be electable in today’s Republican Party. He’s right. Senator Graham points out that that the Tea Party wishes to take their country back, but when asked what they’ll do with it when they get it, have no ideas. No solutions. Nothing but blank stares and silence. This contradicts the image of Saint Ronald Reagan, the Messiah of the Republican Party. Even those on the fringe of the far right, like Sean Hannity, refer to themselves as “Reagan conservatives” – and in the next breath rail against Reagan’s very own ideas reincarnated in the current Democratic administration.

In this spirit, the Tea Party has released the “Contract FROM America” (as if separating yourself from your country makes you patriotic?). It’s interesting to compare some of the words of this contract to the actions of the last “great” Republican president and wonder what this means for the future of the G.O.P.

The contract cries for balanced budgets, cutting “pork”, stopping tax hikes, limiting government, etc. Yet Reagan “tripled the debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. Ford and Carter in their combined terms could only double it. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight.” He entered office calling for slashing the size of government, yet his actions caused it to grow larger than ever before – by a lot. He created the Department of Veterans Affairs, instead of eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education (he did increase those budgets, though). He added 61,000 government jobs (Clinton eliminated 373,000, Bush added 200,000). He promised to slash entitlements, but ended up saving social security.

From Joshua Green of Washington Monthly:

It’s conservative lore that Reagan the icon cut taxes, while George H.W. Bush the renegade raised them. As Stockman recalls, “No one was authorized to talk about tax increases on Ronald Reagan’s watch, no matter what kind of tax, no matter how justified it was.” Yet raising taxes is exactly what Reagan did. He did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them willingly–but he signed off on them. One year after his massive tax cut, Reagan agreed to a tax increase to reduce the deficit that restored fully one-third of the previous year’s reduction. (In a bizarre bit of self-deception, Reagan, who never came to terms with this episode of ideological apostasy, persuaded himself that the three-year, $100 billion tax hike–the largest since World War II–was actually “tax reform” that closed loopholes in his earlier cut and therefore didn’t count as raising taxes.)

The historic Tax Reform Act of 1986, though it achieved the supply side goal of lowering individual income tax rates, was a startlingly progressive reform. The plan imposed the largest corporate tax increase in history–an act utterly unimaginable for any conservative to support today. Just two years after declaring, “there is no justification” for taxing corporate income, Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that same period.

Graham is right. The tea party, if purely about ideology of small government and balanced budgets, would be much more inclined to support Bill Clinton.

Furthermore, lets ask the Governor of Arizona, or Senators Kyl and McCain, what they think of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, happily signed by Reagan, that granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

It’s just not really about ideology with them. It’s about moving a progressive country backwards – to a time that’s glorified, much like the Reagan presidency, to be much more prosperous and happy than it really was. A time where people knew their place – albeit socially or economically – and stayed there.

Those days are gone. It’s time to work with the current administration to compromise and continue to push this country into the future. That means reforming entitlements, the tax code, immigration, wall street – the whole bit. The key is compromise. Calling every single bill the President supports socialist or amnesty or job-killing regardless of its merit is keeping us stalled in a place none of us wants to be. Our economy is hurting. Our military is weakened by years of unnecessary conflict. It’s time to stop glorifying a past that never was and move toward a future that we can all sustain. It’s about living up to the truest ideals of our founding fathers and do what’s best for all Americans, not just those that look like us or live in houses like ours or go to similar churches. It’s time to move past this cycle of blocking legislation for the sake of blocking it and time to start to repair what is broken in America.


  1. carguy says

    Well said and on the mark. I find myself more and more admiring and respectful of Senator Graham. I just wish there were more like him in the GOP.
    It is IMPERATIVE we get the republicans at least rowing in the same direction. I think MOST Of the “possible” republicans want what’s best for the country. But a small percentage who wants ONLY WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM AND CORPORATE AMERICA, are controlling the party. They have Rush and the other “ilk” speaking for them and that’s very bad for everybody.
    With the democrats only occassionally successful in running the government themselves, and the GOP so very succesful in spreading misinformation, lies and inuendo, with the democrats putting up only a token counter-offensive, I am really concerned that 2012 could be another re-installation of the anti-government we’ve seen is emblematic of the GOP.

  2. says

    The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America by William Kleinknecht is a devastating portrayal of Reagan’s transformation from liberal to conservative and how he royally screwed America.
    The GOP has tried to deify him (remember the Republican debates?) but much of the current economic downturn can ba traced to policies he set in motuion. This man did more to devastate middle class America than any president before or since.
    He may not be conservative enough for today’s Republican Party but he certainly is corrupt enough.

  3. alienHunter says

    ain’t gonna happen, self-deception is the new religious righteousnees. In much the same mode as the stock market ‘animal spirit’, psychological blindness has taken on a life of its own and is now sustaining those paralyzed by fear of change. I am ever more convinced that ‘those’ people have outlived their evolutionary usefulness in a world culture where escalating change is the norm.

  4. lomamonster says

    Your last paragraph is truly stunning in it’s clarity and speaks from the heart of the matter. I hope that somehow it rings the clarion of a larger audience.

  5. Shortstuff says

    I have to read that book. And we all know that the current economic mess is a direct result of the fiscal policies HE put into action. The only real “trickle down” of his “trickle down economics” is the warm piss raining down on the middle class.
    Helped along by the crooks and thugs from Nixon’s era.

  6. Scott Barzilla says

    Graham is growing on me as well. Let’s hope his statement is some kind of wakeup call. We all know conservatives are deifying the wrong man, but if invoking him can bring them back to the table then so be it.

  7. Oilacct says

    Reagan understood that, in general, everything goes better when government intervention is minimal. That’s not to say regulation isn’t required, because it is. The key is to determine just how little regulation is necessary. I think Reagan knew that regulation should usually set goals, but not prescribe methods, to be effective.
    Reagan also had the ability to make America feel good again. After the whole malaise thing with Jimmy Carter, we needed someone who presented a positive message, and Reagan did that extremely well.

  8. Chris says

    I’m a South Carolina conservative. I really don’t care what Sen. Grahamnesty says about Reagan or anyone else (or anything else). He is a dead duck down here – he can run as a Charlie Crist style independent (ie classic DC insider) in 2014 or he can retire. Tim Scott, Trey Gowdy, Tom Davis, there are a bevy of true conservatives here who will absolutely kick his *&*.

  9. says

    Good idea. Texas Republicans gerrymandered out all the senior Democratic representatives in 2003. When the Dems took the House back in 2006, all these new extremist Republican freshmen got to sit on the back bench while Dems from all over the country took over all the Committee seats that used to belong to Texans. Of course, they’re still really good at psycho talk and waving “Don’t Tread On Me” flags from the House balcony while they lose vote after vote.
    Good luck with the same strategy in S. Car.

  10. Shortstuff says

    Everything goes better when government intervention is minimal?
    OK then, I gather you don’t mind partaking of eColi along with your veggies? Can’t have the FDA (a government agency) INTERVENING, can we?
    How about every plane for itself in the skies? Let’s just do away with the FAA. Let every poorly-maintained aircraft fly wherever they want. After all, anything else is “government intervention”, right?
    How about the military? Ooops. No, that’s government.
    Safe water?
    Lest we forget – or lest YOU forget – Reagan was, primarily, an ACTOR. And judging by the near-adulation lo all these years later, a pretty damn good one.
    Even with Ahlzheimers…..

  11. says

    If you study the history of Reagan it becomes apparent that Reagan didn’t come up with any original ideas on his own. He was a convenient mouthpiece for Donald Regan and other rabidly pro-business Republicans. They carefully thought out the agenda and ways to either get it through Congress or simply ignore regulations. Reagan simply read what was put in front of him, it’s why virtually every news conference was tightly scripted.
    We’ll never know how quickly into Reagan’s two terms Alzheimers started to affect him but many feel that there are obvious signs early in his second term that impairment was visible and that Nancy Reagan and others were calling the shots.
    Reagan was a deeply flawed man and a dismal failure as a president no matter how hard the present GOP tries to spin his dubious accomplishments. He let banks grow unfettered by regulation, encouraged businesses to ship manufacturing jobs overseas and directed money to the military industrial complex and away from revitalizing heavy industry in the mid and northeast.

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