American Renewal

LORD: Never Trump ‘Republicans’ Would Have Hated Reagan Too

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Jeffrey Lord Contributor
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As my old boss Ronald Reagan might say, there they go again.

The “they” in this case are the self-named “43 Alumni for Joe Biden,” former staffers from the George W. Bush administration, as well members of the amusingly misnamed Lincoln Project, a collection of consultants that can’t make time to defend those Lincoln statues being threatened across the land.

Bottom line: These and other Never Trump groups are nothing more than the GOP establishment at it again.

Where to start? How about 1980 at the Republican National Convention. After a serious primary between Ronald Reagan and establishment favorite George H.W. Bush, Reagan won and was about to be formally nominated by the convention. It was four years after Reagan’s unsuccessful challenge of then-Republican establishment President Gerald Ford in 1976.

The Reagan-Ford and Reagan-Bush showdowns were, in fact, but the latest battles of the day between the leaders of the Republican Party establishment and the conservative movement of grassroots Republicans. Reagan was merely the latest conservative champion in a series of battles that spanned decades. Reagan trod the path of conservative Republican President William Howard Taft in his legendary 1912 showdown with progressive ex-GOP President Theodore Roosevelt. Other conservative champions included President Calvin Coolidge (a Reagan favorite), Taft’s son, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft in 1940, 1948 and 1952, and Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. Famously, it was Reagan’s televised speech for Goldwater in October of 1964 that effectively launched his own political career, sending him on to a successful campaign for governor of California two years later–a campaign strenuously opposed by the California GOP establishment. (RELATED: Clarence Thomas Describes The Moment He Chose To Vote For Ronald Reagan)

Over the ensuing years, as Reagan loomed as a presidential possibility, leaders of the national GOP establishment scornfully dismissed him. Nelson Rockefeller, Ford’s vice president, labeled Reagan “a minority of a minority” who “has been taking some extreme positions.”

New York Republican Sen. Jacob Javits, Rockefeller’s fellow New York GOP establishment leader, claimed that Reagan’s views were “so extreme that they would alter our country’s very economic and social structure and our place in the world to such a degree as to make our country’s place at home and abroad, as we know it, a thing of the past.”

As Reagan rolled up primary victories in 1980, ex-rival Ford predicted Reagan was a “sure-loser” against Democratic President Jimmy Carter because Reagan held “extreme and too-simple views.” Establishment GOP Rep. John Anderson of Illinois, a member of the House GOP leadership, was so incensed by Reagan’s nomination he ran in the fall as a third party presidential candidate. Reagan won in a 44-state landslide against Carter and Anderson, doing what the establishment Ford himself could not do four years earlier.

These views of Reagan were typical of the GOP establishment of the day, a forerunner of what the Bush 43 alumni, The Lincoln Project and other Never Trumpers say about President Donald Trump today.

Ed Rollins, Reagan’s former White House political director and 1984 campaign manager (at the time, this writer’s boss) would recall in his memoirs that he believed the establishment George H.W. Bush to be “a very nice man” whose “main talent lay in cultivating friendships.” But Bush had made clear his establishment disdain for conservatism in the primaries by attacking Reagan’s tax cut plan as “Voodoo economics, which showed he didn’t believe in the Reagan economic plan.”

Rollins continued:

“To those who worked for Reagan against Ford and the Republican establishment in 1976, George Bush personified everything they’d battled all their lives. Picking him would be seen as a particular betrayal by the true believers.”

And when Bush was picked as Reagan’s vice president as a peace-offering to the establishment? Rollins writes:

“What I didn’t realize at the time was that we’d just cut the fuse on our own revolution. The conservatives had won, but then surrendered the future back to the eastern establishment moderates. … A phrase popped into my mind for the first time to describe my feelings about George Bush: Trojan Horse. The enemy was in our camp.”

All of this comes back to mind as 43 Alumni for Joe Biden and The Lincoln Project get headlines from the hate-Trump media and cash from GOP establishment types. Reagan would recognize the grift afoot here on the spot. (RELATED: ‘Donate To These Savvy Grifters’: Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson Gets Trolled By Cartoon Interviewers)

This is nothing more than the newest incarnation of the same old GOP establishment game of so-called “moderate Republicans” engaged in the latest effort to turn the GOP into what Reagan mocked as a “pale pastel” imitation of the Democrats.

In their endorsement of Joe Biden, these establishment “Republicans” have dropped their mask and revealed their opposition to every bedrock principle of the Republican Party they once pretended to support. They now boost Biden – a candidate who supports abortion and would place radical Leftists on the Supreme Court. That means, like him, they also oppose tax cuts and seek to weaken our border and immigration laws. And Biden, as with all Democrats, loves to divide by race, a core value of the Democrats from their creation as the party of slave owners and segregationists, to identity politics today — the ugly grandson of segregation.

In other words, this is the same song, the umpteenth verse from the latest cheerleaders of the intellectually bankrupt GOP establishment that Reagan routinely had to battle before and during his presidency.

On the bright side? Their mask is off. They should never be invited back into the GOP fold again.

Jeffrey Lord, a former CNN contributor, is a columnist and author. He is a former associate political director in the Reagan White House. In his Washington career, he has served successively as a senior aide for a U.S. congressman and a U.S. senator, chief of staff for former Reagan cabinet member Drew Lewis in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign, and as an aide to HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. He writes at his website, TheJeffreyLord.com.


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