Column: Memo to GOP ‘Never Trumpers’: Reagan isn’t rising from the dead
A “never Trump” friend I’ve known since law school writes:
“My former partner is old enough to have voted for Barry Goldwater. And like me, he is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and libertarian, so there are some Neanderthal Republicans out there who are just too distasteful to vote for. So, like me, he often votes Libertarian. He does not see much about Donald Trump that resembles a traditional Republican.”
For the millionth time, Trump is not a fiscal conservative. He is a populist. And his near-embrace by many evangelicals notwithstanding, New Yorker Trump with “New York values” is likely pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. The man doesn’t even go to church. And speaking of “traditional Republicans”: GOP voters backed Mitt “Romneycare” Romney and John “McCain-Feingold” McCain, but they draw the line at insufficiently conservative Trump?
Here’s the problem. We live in a center-left country. Not center-right — center-left. We talk the talk of low taxes and ending entitlements and terminating this or that social program — until a fiscal conservative true believer proposes legislation to do just that.
Goldwater, in 1964, lost in a landslide. The main reason President Ronald Reagan got elected in 1980, despite his many gifts and his conservative principles, was voter disdain for President Jimmy Carter — gas lines, the Iran rescue debacle, stagflation. Most conservatives who romanticize about Reagan don’t get this point! Yes, we “need” another Reagan. But to bring that about, given the ever-increasing leftward tilt of the country, we need another Jimmy Carter.
Americans never embraced Reagan’s stated conservative agenda — advocating pro-life policies; standing down the Soviet Union by, among other things, funding “Star Wars”; dramatically lowering taxes; and encouraging true free trade (despite his protection of the auto industry with stupid Japanese car “voluntary” import quotas, and protecting Harley-Davidson, among other measures).
David Stockman, Reagan’s young, fiscally conservative then-House member — a Paul Ryan-type numbers guy — headed his Office of Management and Budget. He wanted to take a machete to the size of government. But he failed to roll back much of anything. After leaving in frustration, Stockman wrote “The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.” He laments that with the combination of special interests and Reagan’s refusal to bat them down, the size of domestic government grew even under the “Great Communicator.”
But Reagan was liked personally, and when he was shot, his popularity soared. Americans were proud and impressed at the way he handled it with humor and without hatred. What, because of the attempted assassination Americans underwent an ideological metamorphosis? Of course not. In fact, when he was going through another rough patch, he reportedly joked with his wife, Nancy, that maybe he should go out and get himself shot again.
Consider this passage from The New York Times in 1986, the middle of Reagan’s second term and two years after a 49-states-to-1 reelection blowout over Democrat Walter Mondale:
“For example, (Reagan’s) personal popularity ratings, especially high for a second-term President, are not matched by public support for some of his key policies. As Fred I. Greenstein, a professor of politics at Princeton, puts it: ‘He is more successful than any recent President in establishing space between himself and his policies.’”
This brings us to 2016. And it’s even more left-wing now. Reagan pushed the income tax top marginal rate down to 28 percent. His successor raised the rate, as did Clinton. Yes, GWB rolled them back to about 35 percent, but they’re back up.
In eight years, Reagan did not raise the minimum wage. Few of this year’s GOP rivals, save Rand Paul, made a forceful argument against it. And Rick Santorum and Ben Carson wanted to raise it!
President George W. Bush tried to partially privatize Social Security — and his party abandoned him on the issue. We now have “universal health care,” which people are forced to join, and a self-described socialist might have won the Democratic nomination had he not stupidly taken Hillary Clinton’s email issue off the table.
Finally, look at still popular and respected ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell, a supposed Republican.
He is pro-gun control; pro-choice; pro-affirmative action.
He criticized the House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract With America” as a “little too harsh”; twice voted for Obama; and thinks the GOP has a “dark vein of intolerance” — code for racist.
Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.