Who is the patron saint of the Republican Party? We know that the patron saint of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is FDR, but what about the Republicans? Let’s start at the beginning and consider the very first Republican elected to the presidency and the president many believe to be our greatest for keeping our union together, Abraham Lincoln? Well, probably not since the former Confederacy was comprised of the currently heavily Republican southern states and many in those states still prefer to fly the Confederate battle flag.
How about Lincoln’s Mount Rushmore neighbor, former Rough Rider and former two term Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt? Well, maybe not, since his fight against big money interests, his “trust busting” quest to break up monopolies, and his support of progressive ideals probably rules him out as the face of today’s Republican party. It was Teddy Roosevelt who said “No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the base cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that he will have time and energy to help in the general good”. It was also Teddy Roosevelt who recognized more than a century ago the threat of big money in politics and said: “I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party… Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.” No, we will have to look further.
Here’s another suggestion, the Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II and a two term Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Well, guess again. His having the national interstate highway system built might be a bit too much government for today’s Republicans’ comfort. Let us also not forget his warnings against the “military industrial complex”. It was also Eisenhower who said: “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws, you would not hear from that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can do these things…their number is negligible and they are stupid”. Well, the Stupid Party, as referred to by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, is no longer negligible. No, we will have to look further, but not too far.
How about Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Millhouse Nixon? Now, I know what you are thinking, Watergate! Not so fast. Yes, that might be enough to eliminate him from consideration, but let us not forget that it was Nixon who first implemented the quite effective “southern strategy” that turned “Dixiecrats” into a solid Republican base over the last almost fifty years. However, it is not Watergate that rules him out; it is his creating the Environmental Protection Agency, his raising the minimum wage, his reaching out to China, and his many other far left initiatives that rule him out. No, we will have to keep on searching.
What about someone who was not a president, but who is considered by many to be the “father” of today’s conservative movement, former Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater? Close, but no cigar. He may have favored small government, but he also said “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the (Republican) party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Governing demands compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they don’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” Since so many evangelicals comprise the base of the party, we will still have to keep searching.
Okay, your wait is finally over. I am now ready to go there. How about two term Republican president and the president who really brought the conservative movement into the mainstream, Ronald Reagan? This has got to be the one, since most Republicans already are in favor of granting him sainthood. Alas, not so fast. Let us not forget “Iran Contra”. President Obama is currently receiving a great deal of Republican backlash for seeking a negotiated solution to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I can’t imagine that Reagan’s supplying weapons as part of the Iran Contra scandal could sit well with today’s Republicans (except for the blatantly hypocritical segment of their party, which is a significant segment).
Moreover, it should be remembered that Reagan paved the way for Obamacare through such actions as signing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) which barred hospitals from turning away patients based on insurance or citizenship and he also doubled the size of Medicaid over the course of his presidency. He also signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, a bipartisan immigration reform bill that created a pathway to citizenship for three million undocumented immigrants. If that is not enough, it should be remembered that Reagan supported the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. Moreover, civilians were legally allowed to own fully automatic rifles until 1986 when Reagan signed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act banning them. It was Reagan who said: “With the right to bear arms comes a responsibility to use caution and common sense on hand gun purchases”. It should also be noted that he did not support tax loopholes that allowed, in his words, “millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy”.
The best example may well be Reagan’s position on voting. It was Reagan who said: “For this nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any American’s vote to be denied, diluted or defiled. The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished” (unless, of course, in a state that has both a Republican governor and Republican legislature). No, President Ronald Reagan just doesn’t cut it as the face, let alone the patron saint, of today’s Republican party. No, we will have to look further, but not any further than today’s headlines.
The name of the face of today’s Republican party and maybe even its patron saint, is none other than, yes, Donald Trump. Let me explain. As his leading polling numbers indicate, he is clearly in tune with the Republican base. Republicans are looking for someone to lead their party who “tells it like it is” even if there are no substantive ideas or details, just like the party platform, behind the rhetoric being so inarticulately espoused. For a party that has so alienated minorities, women, the middle class and so on, is there really a better face for the party than Donald Trump’s who has raised the “art” of alienation to an historic new level? The important thing to remember is that, since the party is so focused on catering to the one percenters, having a member of that exclusive club as the party’s face sends a clear message to the other one percent members. No, I think if the Republicans did not have Donald Trump as the face of its party, it would be making a “UGE” mistake…but don’t take my word for it; just ask the “Donald” himself.