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Neither of the two most revered Republican presidents of the past 60 years could win a GOP primary today

 

If you measure them by the ideological standards that prevail in their party these days, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, the only two-term Republican presidents in the second half of the 20th century, were both squishy moderates if not actually liberals.

Let’s examine their records in chronological order:

Eisenhower, who was president through most of the 1950s, was a champion of what he called “Modern Republicanism.” He resisted calls from right-wingers for repeal of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and government regulations. He advocated government efforts to assist workers who had lost their jobs. He favored a helping hand from government for senior citizens. He said he wanted to lead America “down the middle of the road between the unfettered power of concentrated wealth . . . and the unbridled power of statism or partisan interests.”

Eisenhower endorsed an expansion of Social Security and an increase in the minimum wage. He signed legislation creating the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and supported government construction of low-income housing. He also oversaw creation of the gigantic public-works project that bears his name: the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.

In short, most of what Ike stood for would be anathema to the extremists who now control his party.

And then, of course, there’s Ronald Reagan, the beloved Gipper, the patron saint of modern Republican conservatism. The reverence with which today’s right-wingers claim to regard this man is astonishingly at odds with his actual record as president during the 1980s.

The situation is perhaps best summed up by this bit of SNIDE MOCKERY from Slade Sohmer, who says Reagan’s tenure in the White House “would have to be considered by current conservative standards ‘the worst presidency in American history':

This president is a president every conservative Republican and Tea Party member should loathe.

This president nearly tripled the national debt. This president signed an immigration reform bill that granted blanket amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. This president talked with our enemies. This president raised taxes 11 times. This president, in fact, raised payroll taxes in order to pay for government-run health care. This president presided over double-digit unemployment. This president expanded the size of government and created new federal departments. This president cut and ran, withdrawing troops from hostile regions. This president put two justices on the Supreme Court that voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. This president closed tax loopholes to ensure “every corporation pay their fair share.” This president even advocated gun control on the op-ed pages of the, gasp, New York Times.

(Snip)

[C]ompared to the Palins, Limbaughs, Bachmanns, Tea Party leaders and Fox News commentators that make up the current ideological head of the conservative mega-beast, Reagan is at best a centrist. At worst — strictly looking at governance, not ideology — he governed far more liberally than the job-killing, tax-raising, enemy-appeasing, immigrant-loving Barack Obama.

Can you imagine the vitriol from Fox News if President Obama granted amnesty to illegal immigrants? Can you imagine the venom on Tea Party signs if President Obama raised taxes 11 times, called out corporations for tax loopholes and nearly tripled the national debt? Can you imagine the uproar from talk radio if President Obama actually wrote an op-ed advocating any restrictions on the sale of handguns? The right-wing echo chamber might implode upon itself in a fit of blind rage.

UPDATE: Whenever I write a post comparing Ronald Reagan’s record (or, in this case, Dwight Eisenhower’s record, too) with the extremism of today’s Republican Party, none of our resident Applesauce conservatives have anything to say.

Apparently, they just can’t dispute the historical record, and perhaps they also recognize they’re at least partly responsible for what their party has become.

Oh, the shame of it all! Ike and Ronnie would be labeled RINOs in today’s GOP!

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8 Comments

  1. CAROL FOSTER

    Times change. It’s best to recall the good Presidents have attempted to leave behind and not place them upon a pedestal from which they are easily knocked off.

    Fox loves to beat up on FDR blaming his policies for keeping the Great Depression going. They never look to see the United States actaully moved forward during that difficult time and that inturn was beneficial when we entered the War. HOw different things might have gone for us had all those projects not been done. Roads, power etc., inplace was time we didnt’ need to spend doing it while trying to produce weapons and build an army.

    AS I pointed out to one Tea Party/Conservative/ Republican today in a post. I doubted Reagan would have hired him to ride fence on his California ranch, because for all his faults, Reagan worked. The Tea Party just complains without any real effort or a back up plan if cutting all of government fails to do the job.

    At least Ike & Reagan were doers. Compromisers and Statesmen.

  2. What chance would Truman and JFK have in todays Democratic party. A snowball and hell come to mind.

  3. Mike: Don’t change the subject. This post is about what’s become of the Republican Party. Apparently, you’re unable to dispute my contention that Reagan and Eisenhower would be considered RINOs in today’s GOP.

    There was a time not so long ago when a kook like Michele Bachmann would never be considered potential Republican presidential material by anybody this side of the John Birch Society. Today, some polls show her second only to Mitt Romney in the race for the nomination.

    Ronnie and Ike must be spinning in their graves. But your only response to this pathetic situation is a childish taunt that amounts to “yeah-well-so-are-you.”

  4. Mike: Speaking of Harry Truman, you’re apparently unaware of the red-baiting he experienced at the hands of your ideological forebears of his time.

    History shows that the right-wing likes of Republican Sen. Bob Taft said that Truman’s Fair Deal policies were “dictated by a small but powerful group of persons who believe in socialism, who have no concept of the true foundation of American progress, and whose proposals are wholly out of accord with the true interests and real wishes of the workers, farmers and businessmen.”

    Truman just laughed at such nonsense.

    Kennedy, too, was called a communist by some of the conservatives of his time, especially after his anti-Castro stance softened in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The hatred of JFK in some quarters was such that some people warned him against visiting Dallas, which was a hot-bed of right-wing extremism.

    But the Republican Party of those days still had plenty of room for moderates, even a few liberals. The far-right didn’t rule the roost in the GOP back then. And even when Reagan resurrected the conservative movement in the wake of the Goldwater electoral disaster, he wasn’t nearly as far out as this current crop of extremists — which, of course, is the central point of the post above.

    The inescapable fact of the matter is that the Republican Party has moved far more to the right than the Democratic Party has moved to the left. And I don’t know of even one respectable political scientist who would disagree.

  5. Mike: I should probably qualify some of what I said in the comment just above this one.

    The country as a whole, Democrats and Republicans alike, has moved to the left on certain social and cultural issues over the past 50 or 60 years. On matters of race, women’s rights, gay rights, popular culture and other stuff, American society is much more liberal than it was when JFK was president — and even more so than when Truman was in office.

    In retrospect, JFK and Truman had to proceed gingerly on racial matters, given that their party included lots of Southern segregationists at the time.

    With respect to cultural issues in general, it’s a much different world than it was when you and I were young adults.

  6. Mike: Still one more thing:

    Twice this week, you referred to big stock-market losses as examples of “Obamageddon.” But you had nothing to say on the days when the market went up.

    For the week, the Dow was off 1.7 percent — not good, but not especially terrible either, under the circumstances. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, was up 1.1 percent, and the S&P was down 0.2 percent.

    You’re probably disappointed that Obamageddon wasn’t quite as horrible as you had hoped. It probably also disappoints you that the polls show Republicans getting more blame than Democrats for the current economic malaise.

  7. Unfortunately, people have such short memories politically. Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated in March of 1933 in the depth of the depression. He won a landside re election in 1936 with the nation still mired in the depression with unemployment higher than now. With this scenario, Barack Obama should have no problem getting reelected. I think people were a lot more patient in the 1930s. People need to remember what a mess not only economically but internationally that Barack Obama inherited. Franklin Roosevelt did not even inherit wars in two countries.

  8. Nonsense.

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