Reagan was a RINO!
Various groups across our great nation have many traditions. Latino families may celebrate their daughters' quinceañera. Marathoners may travel to Boston or New York. Hippies may attend a myriad of outdoor festivals, from Burning Man to Banaroo. And Republicans, or should I say a subset of Republicans, engage in a quadrennial event referred to by some as the conservative litmus test, or the circular firing squad, in which they enjoy comparing their chosen Republican presidential candidate to Ronald Reagan and comparing every other Republican candidate to Karl Marx (or possibly Groucho Marx). The length of this festival of futility usually runs from late November in the year preceding a presidential election and can end as late as the first Wednesday in November of the following year if the Democrat ends up winning the general election.
Republicans did this in 2008, when the party nominated "that RINO" John McCain (Lifetime ACU rating of 82.13) instead of the "true conservative" Mitt Romney. They did it again in 2012, when the party nominated "that RINO" Mitt Romney instead of the "true conservative" Rick Santorum (or maybe it was Rick Perry; the consensus among firing squad members is still out). And Republicans have trotted out the tradition once again. This year the "Establishment" candidate (aka the "RINO foisted upon us by the RNC") seems to be either Marco Rubio (who, along with Ted Cruz, is the only candidate beating presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the one beating her by the greatest margin) or Jeb Bush.
Besides citing things like the "Gang of Eight," "RomneyCare," and "McCain-Feingold" during this period, these "true conservatives" pine over their memories of the 1980s and that gold standard of conservatism, President Ronald Reagan.
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm a huge Reagan fan. I don't know any self-proclaimed Republican who isn't. And, by and large, Reagan was quite conservative. But, were he to run today, it's quite possible he'd have already gone the way of Lindsey Graham and George Pataki. Why? Well, let's just imagine some of the things today's "true conservatives" may bring up about Reagan were he making the rounds:
- "Reagan is pro-gay-rights!" He vigorously opposed the 1978 Briggs initiative [CA Proposition 6], which would have banned homosexuals from teaching in public schools.
- "Reagan is pro-abortion!" Six months into his term as governor, he signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, which led to a rise in abortions in California from 518 a year to an average of 100,000 during his last two years in office.
- "Reagan is pro-tax!" He raised taxes more than $1 billion during his term as governor.
- "Reagan is pro-illegal immigration!" He signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act while president, which led to a rise in illegal immigration.
- Reagan is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He didn't join the Republican Party until 1962, before then being an ardent supporter of FDR and the "New Deal."
I raise these points about Reagan not to sully his good name and memory, but simply to point out that you can take nearly anyone and cherry-pick from his record to make him look liberal.
Besides being just poor form and inaccurate, chastising one Republican candidate over another is just bad politics, for when the nominee is eventually named, it leaves him open to attack not just from the jaundiced views of the Democratic nominee herself, but through the proxy of his supposed ally, maybe even his VP nominee. (Anyone remember all that footage of Biden commenting on Obama's shortcomings?)
So Republicans should keep their eyes on the prize. Any one of their candidates would be vastly better for the conservative cause than Clinton or Sanders (with the possible exception of Donald Trump). Any Republican who doesn't believe that needs to take an honest look in the mirror and ask himself: what would Hillary do with ISIS and Iran? What would she do with taxes? (Even if you believe that Rubio would be feckless in the face of a proposed tax-hike bill from a Democrat-controlled Congress, isn't it logical to assume that Clinton would do even worse?) Whom will she appoint to the Supreme Court?
The choice is clear. As conservative activist and founder of the Leadership Institute Morton Blackwell is quick to point out, "Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good."
And if Reagan were alive today, I am fairly certain he'd pull out at least one of his old standards. "That person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20-percent traitor."