Ronald Reagan–RINO? Apparently so…

I have said before that I am a life-long Republican. I have also said that over the past few years, I have moved toward the left a little. I came to that conclusion because I saw the “right wing” way out there somewhere on my right, and I saw the “left wing” coming closer and closer to me. Some of you have probably found yourself in the same boat.

Now, I was not particularly alarmed by this discovery. During that time, I had become involved with health care—not just for the rich and those with company-paid insurance—but health care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay. I have also been through the “health care reform wringer.” It was not a pleasant experience. I started out as a mugwump, firmly astraddle the fence. I debated with people from both sides of the issue, and eventually came to the realization that President Obama and the Democrats were right on this issue. I strongly support the Patient Protection and Health Care Act, and because of that, I have taken a lot of flak from conservatives. I’ve even been called a RINO—me, a Republican who had never voted for a Democrat from 1965 until 2010.

The headline said this is about Reagan, so let’s move on to him. Ronald Reagan is a conservative icon—a Republican’s Republican. In recognition of that, in 1999, the American Conservative Union honored him as The Conservative of the Century. (The American Conservative Union is one of the oldest and most influential of conservative groups, and has had major effect on the Republican Party platform many times over the years.) At the time of his election to the presidency, the Republicans—and conservatism in general—were at what was probably their lowest point in history, following the horrible defeat of Barry Goldwater. He rescued conservatism. He set the standard for conservatism. He is still the touchstone of modern conservatism.

So why would I suggest he might be a RINO—you know, Republican In Name Only? Reagan looks more like the current definition of a big-government, tax-and-spend liberal. What was defined as the heart and soul of conservative Republicanism just a few years ago is now derided as “too liberal,” “creeping socialism,” and “selling us down the river to socialism.” Current conservative thought has moved so far to the right that they would no longer recognize Reagan conservatism. Proof?

  • When Reagan became governor of California, he instituted the largest tax increase in state history, a hike of approximately 17%.
  • During Reagan’s terms as governor, the top income tax rate increased from 7% to 11%—a nearly 60% increase.
  • He did cut taxes by about $284 billion in 1981. What the conservatives don’t want to mention—or have conveniently forgotten—is that over the next few years, he raised taxes eleven times, equal to about half of the tax reduction. (You mean that even with conservative Republicans the right hand gives and the left hand takes away?)
  • Though a strong proponent of smaller government, during Reagan’s watch, federal employment actually increased, not decreased, and he added an entirely new cabinet post with the bureaucracy that entails.

Why would this staunch pillar of conservatism do these “liberal” things? Because, unlike the Republicans of today, Reagan was a realist. He did not indulge in fantasy like the conservatives of today. He knew that government is necessary. Sometimes more government than we like is necessary. And he knew that it takes money to run this government.

So the insane desire of the Republicans now to drastically slash taxes across the board would have been rejected by their idol. Even the hated Democrats this year would not—would not, not could not—stop a tax cut for the very wealthy. They are acting more like Reagan than his supposed heirs.

Conclusion? I have not moved to the left. I am still the same Republican I was ten years ago, twenty years ago and thirty years ago when I supported Ronald Reagan with my vote. So how did I get to where I am on the political spectrum? It moved! The most profound result of the Reagan presidency is it moved the country’s though process to a more centralized place. Modern liberals have realized that we do not want extreme liberalism and that Reagan was right. Modern conservatives, however, have taken this shift as an open invitation to move right until they hit the ozone layer—lala land. I’m not going!

I’ll take my stand with Reagan, the father of the conservative America, and stay where I am.

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