Republican debate being held at Ronald Reagan library. Has the party abandoned his principles?

David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate will occur in the shadow of former President Ronald Reagan — making the setting a vivid reminder of how today’s Republicans have in a lot of ways abandoned his legacy.

Reagan, president from 1981 to 1989, redefined not only the mission of his party, but the mission of the federal government.

Taxes were cut dramatically. The military was strengthened. The president talked tough and won the Cold War. The role of government as an economic safety net began to erode. Social issues such as abortion rights became prominent federal issues.

Today, former President Donald Trump, the current 2024 GOP front runner, and his no-compromise allies dominate the party as they promote limited government and social issues.

Trump is skipping Wednesday’s debate. The debate, which is expected to feature six other candidates, will be moderated by Fox News Media’s Stuart Varney and Dana Perino and Univision’s Ilia Calderón. The debate will be held at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The two-hour debate will begin at 6 P.M. PDT.

Trump’s style is hardly the Reagan style. Reagan was a seasoned politician when he took office. He had been active in conservative politics since the late 1940s and governor of California for eight years. He understood that political success meant giving the opposition something and settling for 80% of what he sought.


“He would explain that we’re not going to get everyone to agree with what we’re saying,” said Sal Russo, a veteran Sacramento-based GOP strategist and aide to Reagan as governor.

Russo recalled Reagan would explain “You have to win. You’ve got to pick your issues and not pursue issues doomed to failure. You’ve got to stay with things we can get done.”

The fading spirit

Today, bitterly divided congressional Republicans are struggling to keep the government funded past Sept. 30 and grapple with abortion policy, issues that are tying up the House and Senate.


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