Ronald Reagan Would Be Ashamed of Today’s Republicans

By Antonio Caceres, Staff Writer

Ronald Reagan once said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” Fifteen years after his death, the former American president would likely be surprised with the modern version of his party. His successor, President Trump, has taken hold of the conservative movement and realigned it to his standards. The Republican Party that Reagan once knew died with the birth of Donald Trump. 

I decided to speak to Mrs. Gibbs, a U.S. history teacher, on the subject of President Reagan and the evolution of the Republican Party. We had an in-depth conversation that gave me a greater insight into right-wing politics. Ronald Reagan emerged as a political figure after giving a speech entitled, “A Time For Choosing,” in support of Senator Barry Goldwater’s bid for the White House. Goldwater lost his election, but Reagan went on to rise in popularity and become Governor of California. As an actor, he was accustomed to connecting with average people and was “charismatic in the way that he spoke and was really able to gain the trust and love of the public,” Mrs. Gibbs told me. This likeability and charm eventually catapulted him to the presidency.

Making the Republican Party more accessible to voters, Ronald Reagan created a cult of personality. He won over many voters known as “Reagan Democrats” and was wildly popular with members of his own coalition. Even after his term in office expired, his policies and legacy were carried out by those who followed him. Similarly, Donald Trump has created a zealous following. His supporters wear hats with his campaign slogan and retweet his Twitter account. However, he has also shifted his party’s views and governing style. 

In regards to immigration, the party has taken a complete departure from the actions of Reagan. “He granted amnesty for immigrants, embraced the Latino population, and wanted them to be absorbed into the Republican Party,” Mrs. Gibbs told me. Reagan recognized the value of immigration and diversity in politics. He viewed the Latino community as the future of the Republican Party and tried to cement ties with them. Modern conservatives have taken a far different view, restricting nearly all forms of immigration from Latin America, including legal means. Not to mention the president’s personal disdain for Mexican-Americans in particular. 

   Reagan made successful appeals to social conservatives and campaigned for a greater influence of family values. While he was the first president to be divorced, Ronald Reagan tried to spread Christian morals and secure mandatory public school prayer. Many policies of the current Republican Party have remained the same in the years since. What has changed is the abdication of responsibility by conservative leaders who turn a blind eye to the current president’s immoral behavior. Trump has been known to have cheated on his wives with pornographic actresses and has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women.

When asked what President Reagan would think of today’s Republicans, Mrs. Gibbs stated the political divisions created by the party’s rhetoric would have disappointed him. “Politics are always politics but it wasn’t to the point where there was a winner and a loser. I don’t think he would be proud of that,” she said. Reagan was known as the “Great Communicator,” someone who could reach across the aisle and have a conversation. The Republican Party under Donald Trump is simply incapable of doing that. It has become completely isolationist and obstructionist towards any person or group who does not hold their fervent views.

In late 2015, I was first exposed to the political world when I watched one of the Republican Presidential Primaries. I was enamoured with the spectacle of men, mostly, who debated ideas for the betterment of this country. Immediately hooked, I tried to learn everything I could about government and politics. I considered myself a conservative Republican in the tradition of Ronald Reagan. However, once Donald Trump clinched the nomination, a man who claimed that Mexicans “were bringing crime” and were “rapists,” I lost touch with a party once known for its patriotism and compassion. I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me and the principles of its past leaders behind.