• In 1981, Reagan proposed a large tax cut. But when deficits became a problem, he supported tax increases and signed 11 of them into law. Among them was the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.
• Reagan supported an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent from 20 percent as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
• In 1986, Reagan supported an immigration reform that gave amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens. During the 1984 election, Reagan said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”
• At the Reykjavik Summit with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, Reagan, to the horror of his advisers, offered to abolish nuclear weapons. To their relief, Gorbachev declined the offer.
For these reasons, Barack Obama has often praised Reagan. Meanwhile, Republican leaders admit that Reagan would clearly be out of step with his party and would not be able to secure its presidential nomination today. Jeb Bush is not the only one.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: “Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA): Reagan “would never be elected today in my opinion.”
Other Republicans note Reagan’s commitment to compromise and working with Democrats to find solutions to pressing national problems.
Former chairman of the Republican National CommitteeHaley Barbour: “Let me make sure that one thing is clear about Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party: Reagan did not demand or expect everyone to agree with him on every issue. He wasn’t a purist. Some candidates are vying to be the most conservative candidate, and some voters are seeking purity in their choice. Well, in politics purity is a dead-dog loser. You need unity. And purity is the enemy of unity.”
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): “Reagan wouldn’t identify with this party. There’s a streak of intolerance in the Republican Party today that scares people. Intolerance is a very dangerous thing in a society because it always leads to a tragic ending. Ronald Reagan was never driven by ideology. He was a conservative but he was a practical conservative. He wanted limited government but he used government and he used it many times. And he would work with the other party.”
I worked for Ronald Reagan and believe he was a great president. But he was not a radical who made extravagant claims or sought to destroy government, as most Republicans appear willing to do today. He believed in conservative governance and getting things done, and if bending on principle was necessary, then so be it. I think Republicans would be better off emulating the real Ronald Reagan and less demanding rigid adherence to unachievable principles."