In his piece on an exchange between Fred Barnes and Craig Shirley (author of the recent release, Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America) at CPAC, my friend Rick Sincere pointed out how Shirley responded to the question why he, in his book, he referred to the Gipper as the “sometime leader of the conservative movement”:
He gave the example of the 1978 initiative in California, Proposition 6 (better known as the “Briggs Amendment,” named for its principal sponsor, state Senator John Briggs, which aimed to prohibit gay people from serving as teachers or staff members in government schools. Reagan opposed the measure, and Briggs gave Reagan full credit or, from Briggs’ point of view, blame for the proposition’s defeat at the polls. (Shirley says the defeat was overwhelming, 57 percent to 43 percent.)
While we’ve blogged about this before here, we can’t repeat this anecdote enough to those blind to the Gipper’s political courage. That great and good man risked antagonizing his base by so publicly opposing the Briggs Initiative. And he did so in order to defeat an anti-gay initiative. And even back in 1980, conservatives didn’t desert the Gipper even after he had help defeat that pernicious proposal.
Telling also that Shirley would select that one to illustrate his point.