This is Still Reagan’s Party || Conservative Review


By: John Heubusch, Craig Shirley | November 28, 2016

Donald J. Trump has not even been sworn in as the 45th president and yet Trump booster Steve Moore, former columnist for the Wall Street Journal, apparently told a group of House Republicans last week they are “no longer Ronald Reagan’s party.”  Interesting. Steve Moore would have us bury President Reagan a second time, this before the Trump presidency has even begun. Let’s see where we are in eight years before we start making baseless proclamations.

Moore’s commentary notwithstanding, history has already passed judgment on Ronald Reagan, and not just on his presidency but on his entire life. Reagan actually won big majorities of the popular vote and vast majorities of the Electoral College in 1980 and 1984. He left office with an astonishing approval rating of over 70 percent. He did so because he had a clear philosophy: less taxes, less regulation, smaller government, more freedom and a strong defense. He created 19 million new jobs. He righted and inspired a nation.  He toppled an Evil Empire, freeing tens of millions. He was and remains a consequential president and world leader.

We got curious about the matter, so commissioned the respected pollster, John McLaughlin to recently ask Republicans nationwide about President Reagan in the day and age of the Trump phenomena. By a margin of 58 percent to 25 percent, Republicans saw Trump as different from Reagan, not similar. When asked if Trump would be as successful as Reagan, by a margin of 48 percent to 33 percent, Republicans did not think Trump would be as successful as the Gipper.

There are a thousand sites, monuments, buildings, roads and all manner of things in America named after President Reagan by a grateful nation. Maybe someday Trump will be as revered as much as Ronald Reagan, but let’s not be hasty to belittle the relevance of Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Revolution, even in the cause of serving one’s job hunt.  Moore, a frequent cable talking head, ironically once got a job in Washington because of Ronald Reagan.

Insiders often suffer from liberal newspaperism. Liberal newspaperism, such as that exhibited by the New York Times, often demonstrate a galloping ignorance and complete lack of foresight. Imagine, Mark Levin’s, Laura Ingraham’s, and Sean Hannity’s radio shows all forecast a Trump possible win weeks and even months before the election, while the out-of-touch and out-of-fashion newspapers of yesterday are still in denial. Maybe it is because Levin, Hannity, Ingraham, and others actually talk to real Americans each evening, their own three-hour focus group. Even the Times went so far as to issue a long letter apologizing for being out of touch and therefore woefully erroneous and even duplicitous in their campaign coverage.

In fact, American conservatism, American populism and American libertarianism are all closely related. These “isms” don’t completely overlap, but they are often based upon the rights and dignity and privacy of the free individual. It might surprise Moore and others who misunderstood Reagan’s message when he said in 1975, “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. Today it is difficult to find leaders who are independent of the forces that have brought us our problems—the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business and big labor. If America is to move forward, this must change.” Note that Reagan named Bigness as what threatened and ailed America. Bigness is the enemy of individualism.

Continuing, the Midwest populist Reagan said, “In the coming months I will take this message to the American people.  I will talk in detail about responsible, responsive government.  I will tell the people it is they who should decide how much government they want.” What could be more American conservative, more American populist than this statement announcing his candidacy for president?

Want further evidence? In an address to the California Republican State Central Committee Convention in September of 1973, Reagan said “One legislator accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude. That is when the Founding Fathers made it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens should be one of the government’s primary concerns.” It was an era in which the thinking of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, who believed in the natural, God-given rights of the individual, prevailed. Reagan was the quintessential American conservative.

Moore said Trump has made the GOP into a blue-collar party, but surely he’s heard of the Reagan Democrat? In 1980 alone, Reagan won 25 percent of the Democratic vote nationwide, all blue collar, taking the party away from the country club elitism of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. Reagan railed against the corporate boardroom, country club image of the Republican Party and through his rhetoric and policies, remade the Republican Party.

We don’t see a strong, Reagan-like mandate for President-elect Trump right now. The election was as much a rejection of Hillary Clinton. There’s nothing similar to a mandate for a Reagan Revolution. The vote in 1980 was clearly an overwhelming electoral landslide for Reagan and his ideas. Post-election polling showed a rejection of Jimmy Carter and an affirmation for Reagan’s New Federalism. There’s nothing like that for Donald Trump right now except the chant to “drain the swamp,” a worthy goal which we applaud and support.

Historically, inexorably, America has been moving to the right since the end of the New Deal, each Democrat has become more conservative and each Republican has become more conservative. A great part of that impetus which lead to the GOP holding a record number of elective seats nationwide came from Reaganism and still does.

Barack Obama was simply a detour in history, an aberration, whose presidency could soon be lost in the sands of time, like Rutherford B. Hayes and Millard Fillmore.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is still Ronald Reagan’s party.

John Heubusch is Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer. His fourth book on the Gipper, Reagan Rising, published by Harper Collins, is due out in March of 2017.