Could Ronald Reagan Get Elected Today?

Elisabeth Meinecke
Posted: Nov 09, 2012 7:50 AM

Popular theory suggests Reagan was too moderate for today’s GOP, but the experts disagree.


From Townhall Magazine's November Perspectives by Kyle Bonnell:

Questioning Ronald Reagan’s electability in today’s political environment has become a preoccupation of today’s liberals. As this story goes, Ronald Reagan was too moderate and compromising for the tea party-infested, intransigent and ideologically rigid Republican Party. But is it true?

Not according to Edwin Meese, President Reagan’s Attorney General.

“If you look at his principles- limited government, individual liberty, free market economics, strong national defense– those values are the same values that the Republican Party stands for today, “he says. “I don’t think he would have any problem getting elected today.”

Likewise, the rising generation of conservatives rejects the notion that Ronald Reagan was too moderate for today’s GOP.

“The liberal notion that Reagan could not get elected today in the Republican Party is absolutely ridiculous,” said Christopher Malagisi, President of the Young Conservatives Coalition. “Almost every GOP presidential candidate this past cycle had tried to compare themselves to Reagan in one way, shape or form. The GOP base uses him as their standard-bearer and he’s that one ecumenical figure who brought together all branches of the conservative movement.”

Furthermore, historian Paul Kengor points out that today’s Republicans are looking for another Reagan: “I constantly speak to Republicans nationwide, often at the annual “Reagan Day” dinners they’ve started in lieu of the traditional Republican “Lincoln Day” dinners,” he says. “The question I get asked the most is, ‘Who’s the next Reagan?’”

Liberals like to argue that Reagan raised taxes during his time in office, and therefore would not have gotten along with the Tea Party. According to Meese, however, the Left is employing a narrow view of history to separate Reagan from his conservative roots.

“Actually, Ronald Reagan had the largest tax reduction in history when he reduced income taxes across the board,” he says. “He didn’t believe in the class warfare and divisiveness that the current administration continually preaches. Instead, he believed that taxes should be reduced across the board, which is what he did.”

Indeed, Reagan’s tax cuts took the top marginal income tax rate from 70% all the way down to 28%, and the lower bracket was reduced to 15%. Given the fact that TEA is an acronym for ‘taxed enough already,’ it’s safe to say that Reagan’s policies would have been popular with today’s grassroots conservatives. Meese agrees:

“I think Ronald Reagan would have gotten along very well with the tea party,” he says. “I think in many ways, the Tea Party is very similar to the Reagan Democrats: people who basically believed in the constitution and limited government. And I think he would have been a champion of the Tea Party, and they would have regarded him as their champion.”

When it comes to taking on excess and corruption in government unions, President Reagan would find himself at home in today’s Republican Party. The onetime president of the Screen Actors Guild famously terminated over 12,000 air traffic controllers who illegally went on strike in hopes of obtaining a $10,000 raise and 32 hour work week. Meese sees parallels between Reagan’s handling of the air traffic controllers and the efforts of current Republicans like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. ...


Read more of this column by ordering the November issue of Townhall Magazine.