The setting for this week’s CNN debate is the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
Predictably, the GOP candidates have been scrambling to cloak themselves in the Gipper’s mantle. Over the weekend, Jeb Bush even unbuttoned his shirt, Superman-style, to reveal a throwback Reagan/Bush ’84 t-shirt, declaring, “That’s the party I believe in: Reagan and Bush.”
But a look back at Ronald Reagan’s own career on the presidential debate stage reveals that the Great Communicator wasn’t just about huge tax cuts and rattling sabers at the Soviets. His vision of American greatness — imagining the nation as a “shining city on a hill” — was surprisingly broad.
In fact, Reagan gave voice to views — on issues that are still central to our politics today — that are heretical by the standards of the modern Republican Party.
Take immigration. Reagan not only argued against building a border fence, but actually called for an “open border” to allow Mexican workers to come and go as they pleased. Sorry, Donald Trump; that one’s gotta hurt.
Playing up his solidarity with the working man, Reagan also boasted of being the six-time elected president of his union and still a lifetime member. You can see yourself out, Scott Walker.
But wait, there’s more: Reagan also gave a spirited defense of Social Security, vowed to stamp out federal discrimination against women, echoed Martin Luther King in his call for racial justice and bragged about how much California taxpayer money he’d lavished on college scholarships.
To honor a fuller picture of our 40th president, we’ve put together a supercut of Ronald Reagan’s debate lines that, were he with us today, would get the patron saint of the GOP booed off the stage of his own library.