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October 26, 2007


This Charles Krauthammer column has a pretty trenchant intro:

Major grumbling among conservatives about the Republican field. So many candidates, so many flaws. Rudy Giuliani, abortion apostate. Mitt Romney, flip-flopper. John McCain, Mr. Amnesty. Fred Thompson, lazy boy. Where is the paragon? Where is Ronald Reagan?

Well, what about Reagan? This president, renowned for his naps, granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill. As governor of California, he signed the most liberal abortion legalization bill in America, then flip-flopped and became an abortion opponent. What did he do about it as president? Gave us Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the two swing votes that upheld and enshrined Roe v. Wade for the last quarter-century.

The point is not to denigrate Reagan but to bring a little realism to the gauzy idol worship that fuels today's discontent.

You can't denigrate Reagan because he no longer exists. There's only Robo-Reagan, the better, stronger, faster, more conservative president that the Right has retroactively constructed and forced into the history books. But Reagan's flaws and shortcomings weren't necessarily his fault: You have to do something about immigration, and that will require some sort of earned amnesty for the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the states. You can't outlaw abortion. You can't outlaw tax increases, of which Reagan passed many. You can't gut Social Security, which he tried, and failed, to do. Hardline conservatism just isn't very popular. Policy problems have their own logic, and their own demands. The Republican Base is demanding fealty to a platform that even Reagan, for all his formidable political gifts and advantages, couldn't hew to. His would-be successors, in office, will do no better.

October 26, 2007 | Permalink


But Reagan's flaws and shortcomings weren't necessarily his fault: You have to do something about immigration, and that will require some sort of earned amnesty for the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the states. You can't outlaw abortion. You can't outlaw tax increases, of which Reagan passed many. You can't gut Social Security, which he tried, and failed, to do.

Silly Ezra. Today's conservatives want to outlaw objective reality.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Oct 26, 2007 10:18:33 AM

Joshua Green wrote the article on this in the Washington Monthly a few years back:


Posted by: Haggai | Oct 26, 2007 10:30:17 AM

Reagan was a sucky president who's greatest accomplisment was to have such manifestly awful Republican successors, that even he looks great by comparison.

The Reagan cult? Yet another example of the subtle prejudice of low expectations ...

Posted by: Jamey | Oct 26, 2007 10:33:52 AM

Ezra, I would really love to see you stopping citing beltway idiots like Krauthammer et al. They don't care about our opinion nor advice anyhow, and you're only driving their clickrates up. This ain't the right way to get rid of them or at least to reduce their status.

Posted by: Gray | Oct 26, 2007 10:35:14 AM

"Today's conservatives want to outlaw objective reality."

Hehe, indeedy. They're like "Reality? Eek! Those facts are sooo liberal...".

Posted by: Gray | Oct 26, 2007 10:37:32 AM

I smell a new conservative talking point ... or at least lazy regurgitation. IIRC, a fortnight or even a month or so ago, some conservative (David Frum?) was making pretty much the same points on NPR.

Posted by: DAS | Oct 26, 2007 10:41:19 AM

Robo-Reagan existed within his lifetime, indeed from the beginning of his political career. One of the first thigns he did as governor in 1967 was pass the biggest tax increases in California history. Conservatives listened to how well he skinned the hippies in his speeches, ignored the broken conservative campaign promise, and boosted him for president nonetheless.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein | Oct 26, 2007 12:06:20 PM

You can't outlaw people keeping their money, or economic activity you don't approve of either. Now when will you stop trying?

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