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Was Ronald Reagan a Democrat into his mid-50s? || PolitiFact

Kevin Nicholson: “Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

By D.L. Davis 

President Ronald W. Reagan is regarded by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, and experts cite his continuing influence on generations of Republicans.

“Without a doubt, he is the most influential American conservative of the 20th and yes, even into the 21st century,” said Craig Shirley, a historian and author of four books on Reagan and the first Reagan Scholar at Eureka College (Reagan’s alma mater), where he taught a course titled “Reagan 101.”

Reagan was elected in 1980 and left office in January of 1989.

That means about 38% of the people in the United States were born after Reagan’s time in office ended, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

They and others may not know the finer points in the history of “The Gipper,” who was a movie star, president of the Screen Actors Guild and governor of California before ascending to the White House.

That led us to take a look at a claim made by U.S. Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson.

Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and U.S. Marine veteran, was the first announced Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the 2018 election. On Sept. 7, 2017, state Sen. Leah Vukmir of Brookfield also entered the GOP race.

Nicholson was once president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. He referenced his own political conversion — and that of Reagan — in an Aug. 6, 2017, interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” the WISN-TV public affairs program.

“Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s, I think, potentially his late 50s,” Nicholson told Gousha. “It was the experiences that he saw, the things that he lived, things that he did that ended up making him the most influential conservative voice of modern America because he had seen the other side.”

Let’s take a look at Nicholson’s claim about when Reagan switched parties.

The Reagan library

Reagan’s career in the public eye began in 1932, when he graduated from Eureka College and worked as a sports announcer for regional radio. He moved to Hollywood in 1937, where he starred in several films, including “Knute Rockne, All American,” “Kings Row” and “Bedtime for Bonzo.”

He had a long career with the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors, serving as a board member and president in the 1940s and 1950s.

During this time, he was an active Democrat, as evidenced by a 1948 radio broadcast of Reagan supporting Democrat Harry Truman for president and Hubert Humphrey for Minnesota senator posted on YouTube. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, making him about 37 years old at the time of the broadcast.

An Encyclopedia Britannica biography of Reagan mentions the 1948 radio broadcast on behalf of Democrats, but notes that his politics were gradually growing more conservative. After initially supporting Democratic senatorial candidate Helen Douglas in 1950, he switched his allegiance to Republican Richard Nixon midway through the campaign.

Reagan supported Republican Dwight Eisenhower in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956, and in 1960 he delivered 200 speeches in support of Nixon’s campaign for president against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He officially changed his party registration to Republican in 1962. He would have been 51 at the time.

“Reagan became a conservative, though, before he re-registered as a Republican,” said Shirley.

The foreword of Shirley’s book “Reagan Rising, The Decisive Years, 1976-1980″ notes the Reagan movement quickly spread, championed by emerging conservative leaders and influential think tanks.

It’s worth noting that Nicholson is not the only Democrat-turned-Republican who has cited Reagan’s switch as a basis for his own.

In August 2015, Donald Trump discussed Reagan’s political history in a TV interview.

“It’s sort of easy to explain — now one of the things I always start with — Ronald Reagan was a Democrat, and he was sort of liberal,” Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News’ “Hannity” program. “And I knew him. I didn’t know him then, quite, but I knew him. And I knew him well. He liked me, I liked him. He was like this great guy.

“And he was a Democrat with a liberal bent, and he became a great conservative, in my opinion,” he said. “And a great president and a great leader. He had something very special. But if you think of it, he was a little less conservative, actually, than people think.”

Our rating

Nicholson said “Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

The 40th president’s past an entertainer, labor union leader and politician is known to historians as well as many Americans of the baby boomer generation. His transition from Democrat to Republican is also well documented, with the formal party switch coming at age 51. (Though experts note he was becoming conservative before that point.)

We rate Nicholson’s claim True.


On Ronald Reagan’s birthday, here’s his gift to you || Conservative Review


By: Craig Shirley, Scott Mauer | February 06, 2017

Today marks the 106th birthday of President Ronald Wilson Reagan. The former actor, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, former governor of California, and former president certainly has left quite a legacy for the American people, even as the current administration has, in some ways, reverted back to “Big Government Republicanism.”

And Reagan has left a legacy for the Washington establishment.

Throughout both his failed 1976 campaign and his successful 1980 campaign, Reagan was attacked not just from the Left but also from the Right, and from the center. He was “too conservative,” both Democrats and Republicans complained. He was simply “that actor” who had no experience, critiques which deliberately overlooked his two successful terms as governor of California. Not much of a political resume, they said. He would start wars; he would undermine any progress with the Soviet Union (no matter how much of a failure the containment and détente policies were); the list of fears went on and on and on. They charged he would upset the apple cart.

For the establishment of the nation’s capital, those fears would become true.

“You know you don’t have to spend much time in Washington to appreciate the prophetic vision of the man who designed all the streets there. They go in circles,” Reagan quipped in Wyoming in 1982. For President Reagan, the muddling of bureaucracy and the federal government was a main source of contention with the Republican president. This was a platform he ran in 1976 as well, and he prided himself in being the “outsider,” as when he said, “I am not a part of the Washington establishment and I don’t consider that a disadvantage.” He often and accurately called D.C. a “buddy system,” in which D.C. only protects D.C. It has become more intrusive, more coercive, more meddlesome, and less effective.

Reagan’s policies of supply-side economics and anti-federal government dependence, of course, hit close to home for many of the elite. His inaugural address said as much: “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” One of his first targets was the Volunteers in Service of America, a fifteen-year old federal-funded organization which the Christian Science Monitor called “the domestic version of the Peace Corps,” supposedly with the goal of helping all in need in the United States. In April of 1981, Reagan announced that the funding would gradually be cut off, receiving only a third of its 1981 funding within two years. The Monitor noted pointedly:

While Mr. Reagan actively encourages voluntarism, the President objects to the ideological image VISTA has evolved over the years: one of social activism that bucks the establishment and promotes changes often perceived as liberal. Indeed, early VISTA volunteers tended to be young, white, middle-class, college-educated idealists — the kind of Berkeley types who booed Reagan when he was governor of California.

Reagan was similarly critical of ACTION, the federal domestic volunteer agency formed under President Richard Nixon. Aided by Jim Burnley, Tom Pauken and Mark Levin, President Reagan tore it into a thousand shreds. Reagan would have done the same to the Department of Education and the Department of Energy — two Jimmy Carter agencies he despised — but the Democratic Congress and supplicant neocons wouldn’t budge.

Some might say that no, he did not change the federal government enough. He did not go to war with Congress enough; he did not debase the elites enough. Newly-appointed Chief of Staff, Howard H. Baker Jr., said in 1987, “I think there has indeed been a Reagan revolution, but I don’t think it is an anti-Establishment revolution.” But Reagan distinctly changed the outlook and Americans’ view of the feds. We haven’t trusted the Washington establishment since 1980, even during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

When Ronald Reagan won the nomination in 1980, many from both sides of the aisle predicted that this was the end of the GOP. “Carter could beat Reagan more easily than he could Bush or Baker,” said I. A. Lewis, director of the Los Angeles Times Poll at the time. But it was the exact opposite: the GOP did not die under a landslide Reagan victory, but only reinvigorated itself as a hard-identity party of real American conservatism. At his announcement in November of 1975, Reagan bearded the establishment lion right in its den, at ground zero at the National Press Club. “In my opinion, the root of these problems lies right here — in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital has become the seat of a “buddy” system that functions for its own benefit — increasingly insensitive to the needs of the American worker who supports it with his taxes.”

And then Reagan let the Washington Establishment have it, right between the eyes. “Today it is difficult,” he said in his announcement for the presidential candidacy in 1975, “to find leaders who are independent of the forces that have brought us our problems — the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyist, big business and big labor. If America is to survive and go forward, this must change. It will only change when the American people vote for a leadership that listens to them, relies on them and seeks to return government to them. We need a government that is confident not of what it can do, but of what the people can do.”

It was the first salvo launched against Washington and corrupt centralized authority since the first stirrings of the New Deal. From 1933 forward, all Democrats and many Republicans believed government was good and more government was better. Reagan began a fierce intellectual debate which continues on to this day. We now look at Washington with mostly contempt and look to ourselves more. This is good as this was the way the framers and founders intended our system to be.

Reagan, who left the presidency in early 1989 and left this earth in mid-2004, has given an ongoing present to us for his birthday. The fight for American liberty and American conservatism and American freedom, dignity and privacy, which he jump-started, lives on, and will continue to live on. This was Reagan’s birthday gift to us.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. He is the author of four Reagan biographies including the forthcoming “Reagan Rising” due out in March of 2017.

Scott Mauer is Mr. Shirley’s research assistant.


Carrier Deal Mirrors Reagan’s Pragmatic Conservatism || Lifezette

Carrier Deal Mirrors Reagan’s Pragmatic Conservatism

Trump demonstrates an understanding that opportunity is created in the absence of bureaucracy

by Craig Shirley | Updated 09 Dec 2016 at 11:50 AM

Several years ago, a garden-variety liberal columnist asked me to lunch to help him understand American conservatism. Over the course of our conversation, I illustrated how the Louisiana Purchase was a good, though misunderstood, expression of American conservatism. Thomas Jefferson, in acquiring the vast tract of land from France, effectively diminished the reach and authority of the national government, while doubling the size of the nation. The deal enlarged freedom and thus conservatism.

“A free people [claim] their rights,” Jefferson said, “as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” Fifty years later, he described the excess of government as “too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”

The scribe did not comprehend my point, even as I patiently explained it several times. For one delicious moment, I told this unreconstructed liberal: “You don’t understand.” Priceless.

Other conservatives, including the framers of the Constitution, have understood that American conservatism is mostly the absence of government and bureaucracies. Not laws, mind you — but the absence of bureaucracies. The American Constitution is unique because it says what government cannot do. It is the near-perfect expression of non-governance. Government cannot regulate speech or assembly, cannot occupy a person’s private property, and cannot infringe on a person’s right to own guns. The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 were God-inspired geniuses. Thomas Paine, the great American thinker, wrote in his 1795 work “First Principles of Government” that “in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.”

Ronald Reagan also understood this. In his famed speech “A Time For Choosing” in 1964, he said that the “idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique [sic] idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.” He was mostly successful in limiting the growth of government, but he was wildly successful in growing the national private economy.

If one limits the growth of government, pulls back regulations and spurs substantial economic growth, then by definition one shrinks the authority of the state over private individuals. The citizen becomes the master of the state, rather than the slave. Freedom and bureaucracy cannot occupy the same space.

Reagan, courtesy of Jack Kemp, embraced Enterprise Zones for distressed areas as a means to spur economic growth through the exemption of taxation and regulation. “A record number of blacks, some 10.6 million, now have jobs,” Reagan said in 1985. “Since Nov. 1982, the black unemployment rate has fallen by 6.5 percentage points, and nearly one of every five new jobs generated went to a black man, woman or teenager. Blacks have gained an average of 45,000 new jobs every month for the past 31 months — twice the job gain rates of whites.”

If the Democratic Congress had given Enterprise Zones to Reagan, that record would have been better still. It was through Enterprise Zones that, Reagan believed, the absence of oppressive government would allow the free economy and freedom to flourish.

Donald Trump is not a philosophical conservative, but he revealed an intrinsic understanding of conservatism in his deal to keep Carrier’s Indianapolis plant inside the United States. Yes, it is a good thing for over a thousand families, but just as important (and what Sarah Palin does not understand) is that Trump did so by following a conservative philosophy — not violating it. Carrier said the main reason they were leaving was because of the thicket of federal regulations and heavy taxation. Even Reagan supported loan guarantees to Detroit because he perceived the various auto makers were the victims of Washington regulation and unfair competition from Japan.

Trump set out to remove those barriers for the Carrier Corporation.

This deal was simply the practical application of Reagan’s Enterprise Zones. Reagan believed in the “miracle of the marketplace” if left alone. But sometimes government has to intervene, if only to stop government or pull back unfair bureaucratic intervention. This is welcomed thinking after the stale anti-pragmatism of Obamaism and Bushism.

Trump, like Reagan, identified government as the problem.

Besides, if liberal favorites Apple and the NFL don’t have to pay any federal taxes, it seems only fair that Carrier’s tax and regulatory burden be reduced.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and the forthcoming books “Reagan Rising” and “Citizen Newt.”


Craig Shirley – Guest Speaker at Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club – November 11

Friday, November 11 – 6 p.m. $25 per person

Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club
Kilmarnock VA 22482

Author of three bestsellers on former U.S. president Ronald Reagan Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America (2014), Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (2005), and Last Act: The Final Years and emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan (2015). His book December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World (2011) appeared multiple times on the New York Times bestselling list in December 2011 and January 2012, while Last Act was named best narrative in the non-fiction category by USA Book News for 2015.

Craig has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater, where he taught a course titled “Reagan 101.”

Dinner Choices: Veal Osso Buco or Hamburger Soup with Tomato and Hominy


How Trump won and why so many people were surprised || Philly

How Trump won and why so many people were surprised

by Thomas Fitzgerald

People said Donald Trump would not, could not, happen.

Those who analyze and practice politics – most of them, anyway – said there was no way a nation that had twice elected President Obama would choose a successor who had been a leader of the “birther” movement undermining the legitimacy of the first black president.

Obama enjoys a high approval rating, 58 percent in some recent polls, a marker that usually suggests a degree of voter satisfaction. It was interpreted as a good sign for Democrat Hillary Clinton, running in effect for the incumbent’s third term.

And aren’t demographics destiny? Experts have pointed for years to growing minority groups, particularly Hispanics, and the inevitability of a majority-minority nation; the white share of the electorate has been falling steadily for decades.

Yet Trump won on the strength of a base of white working-class voters, and his campaign included themes of racial resentment, both overt and subtle, that appealed to some supporters feeling under siege by increasing globalization and multiculturalism.

The developer and reality-TV star vowed to smash the political and business elites that he sees as pushing job-killing free-trade deals and “political correctness.” That message resonated with enough voters to build a winning coalition for Trump.

Elections are complex, and there are multiple chains of cause-and-effect that could explain why Trump upended expectations so soundly. The factors will be studied for years. Here are some early attempts at explanation.

Change vs. More of the Same. Obama’s likability obscured dissatisfaction and a deep hunger for change. Persistent and large majorities of voters have in polls raised the concern that the country is on the wrong track, but many analysts, including Clinton campaign strategists, assumed that the presidential approval rating was the more meaningful predictive statistic because it had always correlated with the odds of an incumbent party maintaining control of the White House.

“There was a movement that was forming that had been building for decades, a backlash against economic and cultural globalism,” said Republican strategist Bruce Haynes, cofounder of the firm Purple Strategies in Washington. Voters, he said, wanted change.

“The personification of that change was not as important as change itself,” Haynes said, and Clinton was the status quo.

After all, just 38 percent of voters in exit polls said that Trump was qualified to be president, which means about one in five of the voters who pulled the lever for him did so while thinking him not ready for the job.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. It was easy to find attendees at Trump rallies all over the country who acknowledged their candidate’s imperfection, but said it was important to shatter the system or, in a phrase that caught on in the last days of the campaign, to “drain the swamp” of Washington.

“There is this disconnect. It’s palpable,” said David Dunphy, a Philadelphia-based Democratic strategist. “People felt nobody was listening. I always believed they would reject Trump as a person, on the basis of his character, but I was wrong.”

The political and media classes were stunned that anybody would believe Trump’s outlandish promises, claims, and attacks – to build a border wall with Mexico and get Mexico to pay for it, for example, or that he knew more than the generals about how to wipe out the Islamic State.

Conservative columnist Salena Zito of the New York Post argued that most Trump supporters were not fooled. She wrote that the media took Trump literally, but not seriously. His loyalists took him seriously, but not literally.

“I’m not voting for his character,” Mike Straub, 34, a union painter from Bensalem, said Tuesday. “I don’t agree with a lot of things he says. I don’t think this is how he’s going to be if he becomes president.”

Straub, a registered Republican, liked Trump’s plan to tax products shipped to the United States by companies that move jobs overseas. He doesn’t believe that the mogul can wave a wand and restore the nation’s manufacturing base overnight, but says Trump’s policies could slow the flow of jobs out of the country.

Jennie Stevens, 45, a Trump supporter and volunteer in Springfield, Ohio, said recently that she was not alarmed by his bellicose words.

“Is he going to go nuke somebody? No, he’s not,” Stevens said. “I know that.”

Instead, she said, she understands the tough talk as symbolic of the idea that Trump will stand up for the U.S. abroad more than Obama.

Pendulums swing. Craig Shirley, a conservative political consultant and respected biographer of President Ronald Reagan, said there was a similar “dynamic” in Reagan’s and Trump’s victories: Both were outsiders, despised by Washington elites initially as boobs.

“There is a populist dialectic to American history,” Shirley said in an interview. “Every generation and a half, there’s an uprising.”

In 1800, it was Thomas Jefferson, he said. Later in that century, came Andrew Jackson, and eventually Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

“Each of them stands against the corrupting influence of bigness, sometimes of government, sometimes of corporations,” Shirley said. “Conservatism is about expanding individual freedom against that bigness, that power.” Trump spoke against both big government and private special interests in his campaign.

“Is he going to go nuke somebody? No, he’s not,” Stevens said. “I know that.”

Instead, she said, she understands the tough talk as symbolic of the idea that Trump will stand up for the U.S. abroad more than Obama.

Pendulums swing. Craig Shirley, a conservative political consultant and respected biographer of President Ronald Reagan, said there was a similar “dynamic” in Reagan’s and Trump’s victories: Both were outsiders, despised by Washington elites initially as boobs.

“There is a populist dialectic to American history,” Shirley said in an interview. “Every generation and a half, there’s an uprising.”

In 1800, it was Thomas Jefferson, he said. Later in that century, came Andrew Jackson, and eventually Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

“Each of them stands against the corrupting influence of bigness, sometimes of government, sometimes of corporations,” Shirley said. “Conservatism is about expanding individual freedom against that bigness, that power.” Trump spoke against both big government and private special interests in his campaign.