"This is not the party of Reagan. Today the conservative movement took a backseat to liberal Democrats in the state of Mississippi."
-- Chris McDaniel (R-MS), defeated candidate in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate
Chris McDaniel was the candidate of the Tea Party (tm) corporation and is quite upset at having lost the primary election to sitting senator Thad Cochran. He is right to be upset at losing -- just as anyone is right to be upset at losing. He's also right that the Republican Party today is not the "party of Reagan."
It's far more conservative.
Much as Mr. McDaniel would like to hide behind the shadow of Ronald Reagan in TeaPartyland, the truth is it's likely that Ronald Reagan could not have gotten past most any Republican primary today and gotten elected in today’s GOP.
Consider a few realities.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times.
Ronald Reagan voted to raise the debt ceiling 18 times.
Under Ronald Reagan, the national debt went from $700 billion to $3 trillion.
Under Ronald Reagan, the federal bureaucracy increased by 60,000 government jobs.
Ronald Reagan bailed out the Social Security program with $165 billion.
As governor of California, Ronald Reagan oversaw the largest tax increase in state history.
As governor of California, Ronald Reagan oversaw the expansion of Medi-Cal (the state's Medicaid program).
When he was governor of California, Ronald Reagan vocally opposed the Briggs Initiative, which would have blocked gays from teaching in public schools, helping defeat the proposition.
Ronald Reagan supported stronger emission laws.
After an assassination attempt, and when his press secretary James Brady was shot, Ronald Reagan supported stricter gun control laws.
Ronald Reagan signed an amnesty that granted citizenship to over one million illegal aliens.
In today’s Republican Party, Ronald Reagan would likely be dismissed as a RINO. A former union president and member of the Hollywood elite.
By the way, it's not just me who says Ronald Reagan wouldn't be acceptable to today's Tea Party (tm) corporation or the deeply far-right Republic Party that it's become. Consider --
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has said, “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican.”
Former presidential candidate and governor Mike Huckabbee (R-AR) commented that “Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party.”
Or this from someone who knew him well -- “If you look at my father and you just knew him as governor — raised taxes, signed an abortion bill, no-fault divorce, and a few other things — today, the argument against him would come from the right, not from the left." That was said by his son, conservative talk show host Michael Reagan.
So, yes, Chris McDaniel was correct. The Republican Party today is not the party of Ronald Reagan. It is significantly more conservative. And yet Mr. McDaniel still couldn't win his state's primary. Because apparently it's not off-the-wall, over-the-edge radical right conservative.
In his petulance at losing, Chris McDaniel has not yet conceded that he did, in fact, lose. "Before this race ends," he said on Tuesday night, "we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters."
Actually, no, we don't.
It's completely understandable that the candidate of any party would be upset when voters from another party cross over and vote for his or her opponent. Who wouldn't be upset at that?! But even assuming that it did happen in Mississippi this week...here's the pesky reality: registered voters in Mississippi have the right to vote for whoever they want. No matter what the party. Even if they're black.
While it would be annoying if voters cross over party lines to vote against someone, they not only have the right, but they might be doing so not out of "dirty tricks," but rather to legitimately protect their own best interests. Consider that in a state like Mississippi, it's so red that whoever wins the GOP primary is likely to be elected in the general election. So, it is completely reasonable that a Democratic voter might prefer to vote for the Republican candidate they feel will better represent them, should that person most-probably win.
After all, it was this very thinking that got Rush Limbaugh to create his "Operation Chaos" effort in 2008, trying very publicly to convince Republicans to switch parties in the Democratic presidential primaries (since the Republican nomination was wrapped up by that point for John McCain) and vote for Hilary Clinton over That One, Barack Obama. And as a result, huge numbers of Republicans did indeed switch and vote Democratic in such states as Pennsylvania, Ohio and...oh, Mississippi. Go figure. No doubt Chris McDaniel was outraged by this, especially in his own state.
But outraged or not, it turns out that Chris McDaniel was wrong about that one thing. No, we don't have to be certain which voters voted for which candidates. We only have to be certain that people who have the right to vote, voted.
It's interesting how that works in America.
Then again, for the past couple of years, Republicans have been trying to block even that from happening. So, in the end, despite all his concerns, maybe Chris McDaniel has something in common with the Republican Party after all.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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