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The Truth About President Reagan
Nothing is more regrettable than when those in the media try to rewrite history. This happens more time than we would like to admit and it is detrimental to future generations. For thirty years Republicans have worshipped at the feet of a false god. This idol represents the values and morals that many republican's adhere to but, while, he talked the talk he didn't always walk the walk. Of course we all know that I am talking about Ronald Reagan.
Conservative's preach that Reagan was the sculptor who shaped modern conservatism in his own image. Few actually know that Reagan tried to shape himself into his own childhood hero; Calvin Coolidge. As a boy Reagan grew up admiring Coolidge for his conservative principles, principles which took root in the young Reagan and later helped shape the adult Reagan as he moved up through the political ranks.
When one thinks of Reagan you can't help but think of the Cold War, which was one of the most frightening times in American history, as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union gradually worsened and at times even boiled over. Reagan changed all that, as his foreign policies and leadership helped to bring about the fall of communism and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. He reigned over an economy that was brought back from the brink and was at least partially responsible for the twenty years of prosperity that followed. Every republican that has come after him has been judged on how they stack up to him and those republicans, who do not sing his praises are automatically deemed as Rhinos.
However, is it possible that the idea of a pure conservative president clouded the minds and in some unfortunate cases the reality that the untouchable Reagan sometimes differed from how history and most republicans have portrayed him. Could the Republican talking heads on talk radio and television be mistaken? Would it really be blasphemous for a conservative to not disregard facts and statistics on Reagan; instead, of just falling in line? Reagan's accomplishments are many and few would deny that no matter where they stand on the political spectrum but that doesn't mean that he should be held to an almost god like status. Let us remember people for who they were and what they did instead of remembering them for what we wished or hoped that they had done. No more sweeping the bad under the rug and pretending it doesn't exist. Living in such denial isn't beneficial for the Republican Party or conservatism in general.
Was Reagan Conservative?
As Governor of California and later during his two terms as president, Reagan raised taxes 11 times. Which wouldn't be so bad if during that time he hadn't of been calling for lower taxes. During his administration the federal budget deficit tripled. During his farewell speech in 1988 he proclaimed "Man is not free unless government is limited," he said this, even though, during his time in office government substantially expanded. The federal workforce rose from 324,000 to almost 5.3 million people. To understand the enormity of how much the federal workforce swelled under Reagan, one only has to observe how many the government had employed in 2012. In 2012 there were almost a million few government workers than in the last year of Reagan's presidency.
For the most part, Reagan's foreign policy was a success; however, while trying to combat the former Soviet Union, Reagan assisted in the funding, training, arming and equipping of Islamist mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union was pushed back but the victorious mujahideen soon began fighting amongst themselves which led to the Afghan Civil War. The continuous fighting brought about experience and coordination amongst the veterans of the war, who in turn, formed terrorist groups to combat the influence of the West. Currently, the very groups the United States armed and trained in the 1980s, now uses these same tactics to plan terrorist attacks against the very people who sought to free them from the bondage of the Soviet Union.
In 1986 then President Reagan issued the Immigration Reform and Control Act; which once signed, gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants. Amnesty was supposed to be in exchange for increased border control and penalties for companies "knowingly" hiring illegal immigrants. Sadly, the borders were never secured and thirty years later the illegal immigration problem has increased to around 20 million who are now living in the United States. This, while controversial in its time, Reagan was supported by his own party. The same party who adamantly opposed President Obama in 2014 for basically doing the same thing.
Ronald Reagan is to the Republican Party what Franklin D. Roosevelt is to the Democratic Party. Each party basks in their respective hero's glory to this day. This isn't to say that they were not great presidents but only to point out that no president is deserving of such high praise, as they are all fallible.
If the Republican Party wishes to regain the White House in 2016, they will need to cast aside their obsession with Reagan and instead focus on creating a new Conservative movement with a new updated face as the republican hero. This should be the dream and mindset of every republican serving in public office. Reagan had his time in the spotlight and yes, he should be admired but not worshiped. He alone shouldn't be the litmus test for those who believe in the Conservative philosophy, as conservative principles can stand on its own. It doesn't need Reagan, Bush or any current republican leader to dictate what is conservative, it only needs them to adhere to the principles of the philosophy. For once, stop worshipping the golden calf and instead, admire what created this idol in the first place.