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How Tea Party Candidates are like Ronald Reagan

Today, some in the sanctified precincts of the media pine for the halcyon days when Ronald Reagan defined the GOP.  (They leave out that when that great and good man was president, they fought tool and nail to discredit the man and derail his initiatives.)

Now, they’re practically tearing their hair out to show just how extreme are those folks running against the GOP establishment.  What these balding pundits longing for the Gipper fail to mention is that the Tea Party folk are mustering some of the same arguments Reagan did when he first embarked upon his political career.  Take a listen to the speech he gave on behalf of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and you’ll find it sounds a lot like a Tea Party manifesto.

He too was concerned about the growth of the federal government and its emerging intrusion into every aspect of our lives.

“If you analyze it,” he said in 1975, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”  He too (even back then) believed government had grown too big for its proverbial britches.

But, there’s something else the Gipper has in common with the Tea Party.   He began his own foray into electoral politics by running against the GOP establishment.  in the 1966 GOP gubernatorial primary, he faced George Christopher, a former mayor of San Francisco, who leveled some of the same charges against the Gipper as are hurled at Tea Party-backed candidates today.  Reagan writes that the last Republican to helm the City by the Bay

. . . tried simultaneously to portray me as a right-wing extremist and attack me because I’d admitted having been in Communist front groups – without mentioning that I’d resigned and declared war on them as soon as I’d realized what they were.

The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.

(The way the criticized the Gipper for being a Communist kind of sounds like some folks today condemning another candidate for her past communion with covens.)  During his rise, Ronald Reagan was never the establishment candidate.  In the end, he brought the GOP establishment, at least on paper, around to his way of thinking.

Now, as talking heads roar their plaintive roars and gnash their tired teeth about the dire implications of the Tea Party’s growing influence, they should take a deep breath and study a bit of American history.  They  might see this grassroots movement as having a truly conservative function, returning the Republican Party to the ideals — and attitude — of its greatest leader of the last century:  Ronald Wilson Reagan.



  1. Mr. Reagan was a great advocate of freedom and liberty. What we must face though is that his party leadership even then could not walk the walk.
    We must realize our heroes for liberty can’t be found in the same group that continued to grow government and expand it’s reach even during the Reagan years and especially during the last Bush reign. We can’t waste time or our votes on them. It’s time for real libertarians. There are some still left in the Tea Party movement. We can reject the conservatives and bring liberty back or we can step backwards in hopes of a limited government the Republicans never were. I want less government now. I want a government limited so that it promotes Life, Liberty and Happiness. That’s why I’m a Libertarian running against H.Waxman and not wasting time as a Republican.

    Comment by Erich Miller — September 21, 2010 @ 12:24 am - September 21, 2010

  2. What we must face though is that his party leadership even then could not walk the walk.

    We must realize our heroes for liberty can’t be found in the same group that continued to grow government and expand it’s reach even during the Reagan years…

    You mean Democrats? I wonder what you could possibly be talking about since Reagan did not lead a majority party during his presidency. He had a Republican senate briefly, but the house was always controlled by Democrats and they controlled both houses his second term and throughout GHWBush’s presidency. It wasn’t until Clinton had been in office for two years with a Democrat congress that Americans put Republicans in the majority, and they responded by balancing the budget for the first time in generations.

    Yeah, we certainly wouldnt want to elect the people who balanced the budget, gave us a surplus, and according to the CBO had the deficit on track to be eliminated by 2010.

    Even Ron Paul realized that the Libertarian party is useless, stupid, counterproductive and utterly masturbatory and ran as a Republican where he had FAR more of an impact than he ever did as a Losertarian.

    Comment by American Elephant — September 21, 2010 @ 3:47 am - September 21, 2010

  3. And how Harry Reid acts like the Democrats answer to Michael Scott: Harry Reid thinks New York’s junior senator is Teh Hawt.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had an unusual form of praise for New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, this morning at the fundraiser Mayor Bloomberg hosted for him at his townhouse – referring to her as “the hottest member” as she sat just a few feet away, according to three sources.

    The comment prompted Gillibrand to turn red, according to the sources, and created a bit of stir among the small crowd there.

    Comment by V the K — September 21, 2010 @ 7:02 am - September 21, 2010

  4. There is a maxim that “everything which begins in mystery ends in politics.”

    The TEA Party is still “mystery” to many or the professional pols in both parties. But, at some point, they will begin to awaken to what they must deliver in order to get re-elected.

    It is the job of the TEA Party to so infiltrate the Republican Party, that the Republican Party actually re-grows its spine and is willing to stand up for truth, justice and the American Way (thank you Superman) in addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats will come crawling to the center claiming it was their idea all along.

    No one should think that the TEA Party is a political party in the making. It is a true grass roots revolution against what Washington inside the beltway has become.

    Comment by Heliotrope — September 21, 2010 @ 8:21 am - September 21, 2010

  5. When the reality of President Reagan no longer exist, people can make what they want–good or bad; since Reagan is dead, the MSM is trying to redefine him as a moderate when he was no such thing. The MSM are using him trying to get people to vote for Obama Democrats. Facts defy the Left’s attempt to redefine Reagan.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — September 21, 2010 @ 9:14 am - September 21, 2010

  6. They sure are.

    They’re miserable FAILURES too!

    Comment by Proud Liberal — September 21, 2010 @ 9:22 am - September 21, 2010

  7. Dan, good points.

    I’m not very impressed by those in the media who try to recalibrate history to a point that RR somehow redefined the GOP… he may have redefined the conservative movement for politically active conservatives and the world writ large, but many GOPers thought his vision of the Party was exclusive to far too many (Hispanics, immigrants, the urban poor), inclusive of many that few wanted at the table (the religious Right, the angry voter, the America-as-warrior crowd, etc)… we seem to keep confusing RR’s impact on the conservative movement for his impact on some notion of the rebirth of the GOP in the 1980s. Geo Bush 41, RR’s biggest opponent, could have carried the 1980 election if the contest had been in closed GOP primaries… and Carter would have still been vanquished. RR won the open GOP primaries because he appealed to angry blue-collar Dems who thought they were taxed too much.

    Frankly, if GHWB had won, America would be better place today. Remember, it was mostly the pre-TP’er conservatives like Tom Delay who stuck it to the Party so well that they nearly ruined the GOP brand.

    I had the pleasure to say I knew RR. He was no Tea Partier. Pundits like Kristol, Krauthammer and Lynne Cheney know that as well –RR, for his pre-1980 time, was indeed “extreme”; he dodged the label where Goldwater wore it like a badge of honor. Many of us inside the GOP thought RR would be a reckless, war mongering, nuke button pushing Commie baiter… because that’s what his rhetoric suggested. He used that image of reckless war mongerer to our collective advantage when the Iranians read the writing on the wall and released the US Embassy hostages on the eve of RR’s installation as POTUS. It’s why many of us voted for RR but only if GHWB was on the ticket, leash at the ready so to speak.

    And at the same time, RR was very willing to cut any political deal with liberal Democrats in order to get part of a loaf, rather than the whole loaf –something no respectable TP’er would be willing to countenance today… one thing that unites TP’ers today is their collective belief that “pragmatic politics” is an anathema to be avoided at all costs.

    RR had a great, lasting effect on the conservative movement. Unfortunately, part of his legacy for the GOP to was to bring into the GOP constituencies that plague and discredit responsible civics to this day. For conservative activists, he is nearly the godhead that Obama represents for the far Left… but for most of us who consider ourselves to be GOPers first, RR was bracketed by two solid, true GOP presidents: Ford and Bush 41.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — September 21, 2010 @ 10:54 am - September 21, 2010

  8. Frankly, if GHWB had won, America would be better place today.

    GHWB thought that reducing the 70% tax rates of the Carter Era was “Voodoo Economics.” And is most remembered for inflicting a massive tax increase on the American Public.

    Gerald Ford is most remembered for “Whip Inflation Now” buttons and tripping a lot.

    Moderate Establishment Republicans are altogether far too comfortable with the status quo; that status quo being ever expanding and ever-costlier Government, and “compromises” that always seem to result in the progressive left coming out way ahead (“Gang of 14”). Which some would describe as getting “half a loaf.”

    But as Dwight Schrute warned us, it’s a trick. The bread is poisoned.

    Comment by V the K — September 21, 2010 @ 11:14 am - September 21, 2010

  9. I used to call myself a Libertarian(Fiscally Conservative, Social-issues Liberal).I’ve been “Independent” for many years now.
    Why? Because I feel the Liberatrians have been hijacked by the far-Right/Christian Conservatives.I see little difference between the Libertarians who CLAIM individual freedoms are important, and the far-right Repubs who continually attempt to squelch them.
    I vote Democrat, because Social Issues are the ones–as a Bisexual person–I care about the most.

    Comment by Lisa Nanette Allender — September 21, 2010 @ 12:22 pm - September 21, 2010

  10. Would Lisa Nanette Allender care to identify any individual freedoms that are threatened by the “Far Right?”

    And does she simply not mind that Democrats systematically assault the freedom to choose what to drive (through fuel mileage mandates), how much water our toilets can flush, what kind of lightbulbs we can use, they don’t think poor/middle class parents should have the ability to choose schools for their kids, they pass laws telling employers who they have to hire, landlords who they have to rent to, clubs whom they must accept as members. Just recently, the Obama regime usurped the ability of local governments to zone coastal areas. They passed a health care law that not only forces individuals to purchase insurance, but also the type of insurance the government mandates for them. Not to mention the voracious appetite for taxes that limits our economic freedom. The Democrats also appoint activist judges who arbitrarily overrule the expressed will of the people whenever it doesn’t conform with their agenda.

    And yet she votes Democrat because supposedly they respect her “individual freedom.” R-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-g-h-t.

    Comment by V the K — September 21, 2010 @ 12:42 pm - September 21, 2010

  11. Lisa, your post makes no sense. You’re mad at Republicans so you vote for Communist Democrats??? This is like saying, you don’t like chocolate so you going to eat dog poop instead.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — September 21, 2010 @ 3:53 pm - September 21, 2010

  12. This is like saying, you don’t like chocolate so you going to eat dog poop instead.

    I see what you did there.

    Comment by V the K — September 21, 2010 @ 6:46 pm - September 21, 2010

  13. Can three libertarians agree on anything?

    Comment by Heliotrope — September 21, 2010 @ 7:34 pm - September 21, 2010

  14. RR was bracketed by two solid, true GOP presidents: Ford and Bush 41.

    Now for some facts, after all that stinking hot gas. Ford, Bush 41 and for that matter Bush 43 were three of the worst Presidents of modern times for expanding *domestic, non-defense* spending – turning the Federal government into the Leviathan that the Tea Party rightly rejects and condemns.

    Ford was, in this area, particularly awful. Worse than Clinton. Worse than Carter. Worse than Johnson. As Cato’s table shows: Johnson and Clinton increased non-defense, discretionary spending by averages of 3.9%, 1.8% and 1.8% per year, respectively. But Ford? A whopping 10.4% per year!

    Now sure, Congress holds constitutional budget authority, and thanks to Nixon, Ford was faced with a particularly liberal Congress. But the President, in turn, holds a veto over the Congress’ budget (and other) bills. There is no way, just no way, that Ford could have turned out to be THE biggest-spending President of modern times without deserving at least part of the blame.

    Likewise: Bush 41, when faced with a budget crisis, didn’t insist on non-defense, discretionary spending cuts – as he ought to have. Instead, he compiled a record of increases nearly the equal of Lyndon Johnson’s – and signed a crushing tax increase to pay for it all, in violation of his given word to the American people.

    If Ford and Bush 41 are truly “two solid, true GOP Presidents”: then it is no wonder that the GOP brand built up by the Goldwater-Reagan movement has been -progressively- (pun intended) wrecked to the point where a cheap, sleazy community organizer could get himself elected President in the (moderate, progressive) GOP candidate’s stead.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — September 21, 2010 @ 11:17 pm - September 21, 2010

  15. P.S. As always, I grant that Ford, Bush 41 and Bush 43 were at least patriotic Americans, better than any of the Democrat Presidents on defense and foreign policy matters (but still not better than Reagan). And as always, I give Nixon great credit for ending the draft / creating our volunteer military.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — September 21, 2010 @ 11:32 pm - September 21, 2010

  16. As for this bit:

    many GOPers thought [that Reagan’s] vision of the Party was… inclusive of many that few [of his GOP contemporaries] wanted at the table (the religious Right, the angry voter, the America-as-warrior crowd, etc)…

    I confess myself to be a tad surprised, that none of our military and/or social-conservative commentors picked up that one, asking MM kindly to forgive them for having polluted the country-club coffee-klatsch of the GOP “progressives” with their scratchy, untutored presence. But hey… maybe MM’s comments are even less important than I would think. 😉

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — September 22, 2010 @ 8:19 pm - September 22, 2010

  17. OMG! I have been thinking about exactly the same thing for the last couple of weeks now. Especially how the establishment was touting Christopher to stop Reagan. Most important about 1966 besides Mr. Reagan winning the governorship was how the Republicans came back across the United States. Ol’ President Johnson won a landslidein 1964. And the GOP won over 40 seats in congress and a slew of governorships and state houses just two years later. Sound familiar? BTW, I agree with I Love Capitalism. Presidents Bush 41 & Ford were patriotic Americans. And that is about it. BTW, the reason Mr. Reagan had to go for the half a loaf was because the GOP was even MORE RINO heavy when he was president. Anyone remember some backstabbers like Sens. Weicker, Matthias, Percy and the like? And do not forget, congress was overwhelmingly Democrat. Only in the first two years of eight were Republicans were even close to 200 seats (I believe 182 or 192).

    Comment by Mark J. Goluskin — September 22, 2010 @ 8:19 pm - September 22, 2010

  18. It’s “tooth and nail”. No carpentry is involved.

    Comment by Dave — September 26, 2010 @ 5:38 pm - September 26, 2010

  19. “GHWB thought that reducing the 70% tax rates of the Carter Era was “Voodoo Economics.” And is most remembered for inflicting a massive tax increase on the American Public.”

    “most remembered” if one means by that the marginal, anti-GOP types who supported the wholesale gutting of the GOP brand by fellow-political illiterates like uber-conservative Tom Delay. More proof that some of the farRight of the conservative movement have been in their own echo chamber far, far too long.

    I kind of think Bush 41 will be remembered for being one of the few civil, decent public servants in the last 1/2 of the 20th C who kicked the evil Iraqi Republican Guard out of Kuwait… and tried to restore to civility and compassion to our govt… and acted out of public service –not self-service and self-enhancement.

    But then, civility, compassion and the rule of law have never been “values” of folks who think like the above. I won’t even touch on Ford’s and Bush 41’s loyalty to the GOP –because we all know the farRight think that is heresy unless it’s their Purity Party.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — October 1, 2010 @ 2:25 pm - October 1, 2010

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