Ronald Reagan, Heretic

tags: election 2016, GOP, Reagan

Timothy Egan worked for 18 years as a writer for The New York Times, first as the Pacific Northwest correspondent, then as a national enterprise reporter.

In just under two weeks, the Republicans who want to be president will gather in Simi Valley, Calif., at the presidential library of Ronald Reagan for their second debate. You can expect much brown-nosing, bloviating and outright fabricating in homage to the patron saint of all true conservatives, the charming 40th president.

If only the candidates were truthful to the man and his record. For the real Ronald Reagan — serial tax-raiser, illegal immigrant amnesty granter, deficit creator, abortion enabler, gun control supporter and peacenik — would never be allowed on the stage. The party has moved so far to the right from Reagan’s many centrist positions that the guy would be told to go find a home among the Democrats.

More than three decades after Reagan was first elected, his name is invoked, like political Tourette’s syndrome, by everyone from Scott Walker to Donald Trump. But there’s a gaping disconnect among Republicans between the Reagan worship of 2015 and the reality of his long, public career.

Start with immigration, and the police-state proposals that have driven Trump to the top of Republican polls. As president, Reagan signed a bill that granted amnesty to nearly three million people who were in this country illegally. And then he went a step further, acting on his own after signing the first bill, to extend amnesty to another 100,000 people.

Reagan would never back the authoritarian roundup and deportation that Trump advocates, or the Big Brother tracking of immigrants “like FedEx packages,” as Gov. Chris Christie has proposed. ...

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