Conservatives fondly recall Ronald Reagan’s ability to win over traditional Democratic voters because of his ability to connect to the them on a cultural level, but now a respected Reagan biographer says the opposite is happening and instead of Reagan Democrats we have Obama Republicans both in office and at the ballot box.
Craig Shirley runs a Washington-area public relations firm. He is also the author of “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All” and “Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” the definitive accounts of Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns. Writing this week for Breitbart.com, Shirley said Republicans embraced Reagan for their own good but instinctively drifted away from his conservative moorings.
He said by the time George W. Bush ran in 2000, the GOP demand for limited government had vanished and, except for the tea-party influence on the 2010 midterm elections, are still headed in that direction.
Shirley said in 1980, Reagan didn’t find political consensus with Reagan Democrats. Instead, he won them over because they were fed up with President Jimmy Carter and and because hard-working, church-going Americans who prized their ethnic traditions identified with the Gipper. Shirley believes Obama is now having that impact on the GOP.
“You have the rise of urban Republicans now who are very comfortable with the security state, who believe that to be sophisticated they have a liberal viewpoint on gay rights and gay marriage and abortion. If you go down the line, they are much more in agreement with the elites of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama than they are with the populist, Reaganite, tea-party portion of the Republican Party,” Shirley said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Craig Shirley:
The vast majority of Republicans still embrace the pro-life position but are clearly split over issues like immigration and are virtually silent on the marriage debate now that their political advantage on the issue seems to have evaporated. Shirley points to one major reason for this.
“Every president reviled the press of his era,” he said. “Lincoln did and Jefferson did. Reagan had his battles with the national media, but more or less they were doing the job they were supposed to do as the framers outlined. It was beginning to change with Bill Clinton, but it’s complete now under Obama. The press, for the first time in the American republic is an ally of the government against the people. The government is defined by Obama and by the elites. So they have pretty much bludgeoned any other viewpoint other than the accepted avant garde into the ground.”
Virtually all Republicans recoil at being associated with President Obama. They also push back against Shirley’s characterization by noting their unanimous opposition to the Obama stimulus and health-care bills and their ability to turn back many other liberal initiatives. They also point to their efforts to pass conservative measures through the House only to see them stymied in the Senate.
“Shame on you for simply thinking of yourself as an obstructionist party. Your job of the loyal opposition is not just to oppose. You should be proposing, too. What is it that you are doing to advance the cause of freedom in America? American conservatism is defined by personal freedom, liberty, privacy, dinity, all those things are intruded on by centralized authority,” Shirley said.
“The House passed a bill (Thursday) to ‘water down’ the NSA, except it doesn’t water down the NSA. The Republicans control the House of Representatives and they purport to be for individual rights and yet they pass a bill which basically does nothing to stop the NSA from monitoring the emails and the phone calls and the cell phones of private American citizens. It is baloney for John Boehner and (House Majority Whip Kevin) McCarthy, and the leaders up there to say that’s all they can do. They do control the House of Representatives and, when given a chance to do something, they do nothing. In fact, they bowed down before the NSA.”
Shirley believes grassroots conservatives are getting low on patience with the Republican Party and, without major changes, the GOP will come up short in elections because constitutional conservatives don’t see anyone defending their interests. He said that may well have won Obama a second term.
“They do have an option, and they exercised it in 2012 when 4-6 million self-identified conservatives did not vote for Mitt Romney because they did not feel he represented their interests,” he said. “Those people walking away may very well have cost Romney the election.”