On ABC’s webcast Top Line, the eminent Reagan historian and writer Craig Shirley was asked if Ronald Reagan could win a GOP primary today. Shirley emphatically answered, “Yes.”
Liberals who never respected or understood Reagan have suddently tried to co-opt Reagan in recent years in an attempt to make conservatives and Republicans look bad by falsely equating the political environment we are in today with the one in which Reagan rose.
The South was not solidly Republican when Reagan entered the White House. There still was a Soviet Union. Marginal tax rates were beyond confiscatory.
The game is different today. The South is solidly Republican. Islamic radicalism has replaced the Soviet threat. The nation is in much more debt than it was back then. And technology has changed how people receive their news and participate in the electoral process. And a burdensome tax code that encourages a system of gaming and crony capitalism needs to be cleaned up much in the way Reagan had to lower marginal tax rates to unshackle America’s entrepreneuers.
The point I think Shirley was hitting on is that while the challenges conservatives face today may be different from those they faced during the 1980s, the spirit that is needed to fight these battles remains the same.
Shirley noted that Reagan was an outsider who fought against the status quo of big government and big business. This is the same frustrations that gave rise to the Tea Party movement, a movement fed up with Democrats worshipping big government and Republicans colluding with big business to game the system to hurt small businesses. It is worth nothing that the Tea Party movement began in response to TARP, which was enacted under Republican George W. Bush who seemed to be a Republican before a conservative. The Tea Party gained steam when Obama tried to expand the size and power of government while also working with his supporters on Wall Street and the financial industry to dole out more stimulus and bailout dollars that have only worsened the country’s economy. Last month, a grand total of zero jobs were created in the economy.
Further, confronted with these challenges, Reagan differentiated himself from the “Rockefeller Republicans” because he was a conservative before he was a Republican. To that point, Reagan called for conservatives to be bold instead of “pastel.”
It is unfair to compare a Republican candidate to Ronald Reagan, just like it is unfair to compare a Black leader to Martin Luther King, Jr. It is safe to say, though, that Reagan’s outsider spirit is the soul of the Tea Party movement. That spirit is far from Washington, D.C., but has a Southern militarism in its relentless dislike of big government and crony capitalism.
And because of that fact, Shirley is right when he says Reagan can win a GOP presidential primary today. You betcha he can.