Appearing on CNN on Sunday, former Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman repeated one of his party’s standard talking points:
But the bigger issue is the fact that [Herman Cain is] able to get away with this just demonstrate how extreme the Republican Party has become today. The concept of Reagan mainstream conservatism is really an issue for the Smithsonian, because ultimately Reagan would be an outcast in today’s Republican Party because he raised taxes, he raised the debt ceiling and he negotiated with our adversaries.
Zimmerman here offers a talking point understanding of the GOP today presents a rather narrow view of Ronald Reagan’s overall vision and record — as if hiking taxes and raising the debt ceiling* were issues which defined the Gipper. Ronald Reagan always favored smaller government, reduced the federal tax rates in his first year in office, then, working with congressional Democrats and Republicans, simplified the tax code in 1986.
Income tax rates for all Americans were lower on January 20, 1989 (the day the Gipper left office) than they were on January 20, 1981 (the day he took office).
With Reagan’s reputation rising, liberals are attempting to recreate the Republican in their own image. Mr. Zimmerman is just the latest Democrat striving to distinguish the current crop of Republican candidates from the successful conservative president.**
Now, given that the last Democrat to occupy the White House before Obama enjoys stellar ratings, with two-thirds of Americans having a favorable view of the former Arkansan, his favorability on the upswing even among Republicans, maybe we should be asking how the Democrats today compare with Bill Clinton.
Would, say, the president and his fellow partisans support taking spending back to the level of the Clinton years?
*Recall that with the deficit considerably smaller that it is today, Reagan did not seek to raise multiple times, 18 times during his eight years in office, thus never as dramatically as Obama sought to do it this summer. And he raised the debt limit reluctantly because he had to, not because he wanted to.
**This talking point notwithstanding, the two current frontrunners have a lot in common with the Gipper. Like our nation’s fortieth president Herman Cain has a dewy-eyed patriotism, a positive vision for the country with a “cheerfulness” that, in the words of the National Review’s Seth Leibson “is practically infectious.” He can well articulate the merits of small government policies.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of a coastal state like the Gipper, moved from holding a pro-choice position as governor to a pro-life position when he launched a bid for the White House. His economic plan, like that of Ronald Reagan, would reduce regulation, limiting the federal government’s meddling in private enterprise.
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