Monday was the 101st anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birthday, and even Gov. Jerry Brown sent out a news release praising the former president and California governor (who preceded Brown in office) and declaring Monday as Ronald Reagan Day. And Brown is a Democrat. Republicans, momentarily setting aside their differences to back a single issue, went wild over the anniversary. Had they been able, they would have declared Reagan a saint.
But they forget President Reagan is no longer with us.
If he were still around, he might remind them that his own road to the White House was far from smooth; he also might remind them that even his campaign for the governorship of California was fraught with criticism from other Republicans. He wrote in his autobiography, “An American Life,” the following: “The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.”
However, when he began losing primary after primary in the 1976 campaign against Republican President Gerald Ford, he abandoned the 11th Commandment and launched bitter attacks against Ford.
An article in Wikipedia opines that those attacks may have crippled Ford, who eventually won the nomination but was defeated by Jimmy Carter. And before that, remember, the bitter attacks on Sen. Barry Goldwater by Nelson Rockefeller and other establishment Republicans provided much fodder for President Lyndon Johnson to use in his 1964 defeat of Goldwater.
Ironically, Goldwater’s philosophy, capsulized in his book “Conscience of a Conservative” and in the many speeches he gave, laid the foundation for many of Reagan’s policies a decade and a half later, policies that are still being claimed by Republicans of every stripe.
Republicans owe Reagan much, but the debt of gratitude goes further back, to debates among 20th century Republicans which helped Reagan direct his own thinking.