We hear it all the time from Republican candidates, the incessant assumptions of what former President Ronald Reagan would do in the face of today’s glaring policy issues. Reagan is the poster boy for Republican economic, social, and foreign policies.
But if Reagan were alive today and running for president (if, of course, he were allowed to throw his hat into the race for a third term), his poll numbers would likely be just as bad as, or worse than, Jon Huntsman’s. Today’s GOP is a place for staunch right-wing proponents who take Reagan’s policies and beliefs to the upmost extreme. Given Reagan’s track record, he would not have many supporters amongst today’s Republican Party and would not stand a chance at winning an election. The Republican base would hammer his economic policies and willingness to compromise with the Democratic party. His record of increased spending, ballooning national debt, tax hikes, and compromise would leave him with little backing in today’s Republican party.
Reagan’s most glaring issue with the current Republican agenda is his economic record. His economic record would be attacked by the Tea Party. Reagan passed sharp tax cuts in 1981, but also oversaw 11 tax hikes over seven of the eight years he served. As the governor of California, Reagan signed into law the largest tax hike in any state's history. Add on the fact that the national debt skyrocketed – from $700 billion to $3 trillion – under “Reaganomics” and government spending increased by some 69%. Much like President Barack Obama, Reagan’s policies exemplified minimal lasting improvements.
Republicans would have little to cheer about regarding Reagan's job creation numbers. Under Reagan's leadership unemployment ballooned to 10.8%, following his 1981 tax cuts. Reagan was able to curtail the soaring numbers, but it took years to get the numbers back down to their previous levels.
If his economic record did not do him in, then his penchant for working across the aisle would. Today’s GOP is all about standing their ground and not giving in. According to accomplished biographer Lou Cannon, “He (Reagan) was willing settle for half a loaf or less and come back for more.” The GOP today is party driven by an all-or-nothing mentality, which has caused our political system to grind to a halt and our credit rating to be downgraded.
Reagan demonstrated his commitment to compromise and social issues through his Social Security Reform Act, where he reneged on his years of disgust for the program by extending the programs solvency, stating, "This bill demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to Social Security." This kind of reform to Social Security would meet the wrath of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has trashed the program on numerous occasions, labeling it a “Ponzi” scheme. Showing weakness – compromising to most of us – in the political arena is all but a death wish nowadays. Breaking down and allowing the other party to get what they want is all but unheard of, and as we can see with Obama, will lose you hordes of supporters.
Republicans today like to reference Reagan because they need a history to stand behind. He ignited a fire inside of Republicans, rallying them in the face of tough economic times following the reign of President Jimmy Carter. Their fragmented history allows Reagan to be a political hero to most of the Republicans in office today; he was seen as charismatic, a visionary, steadfast in his beliefs, and unafraid to mix things up. But if he were alive today, Reagan would not come close to sparking as much fervor amongst the party as his political career would have ended following the rise of the Tea Party. He would be seen as a tax hiking Washington bureaucrat who raised our deficit, spent taxpayer money, and cost millions of Americans jobs.
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