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Chan Lowe: Ronald Reagan and today's Republican Party


My dog Tallulah and I enjoyed watching the Republican debate the other night. For us, political debates fulfill the same role that watching Survivor does for those who don’t have to do this kind of thing for a living. Tallulah’s ears, I noticed, picked up whenever Rick Perry weighed in. As I said to Mrs. Lowe-Down, it must have been a Pavlovian response to that conservative dog-whistle of his.

The way the organizers set up the debate, the candidates who ranked highest in the polls were positioned in the center, with the also-rans trailing out to the edges. I found it ironic that each of the eight (was it eight?) wannabes was falling all over him- and herself to invoke the sainted Ronald Reagan’s name. If Reagan were running in the Republican field today, he wouldn’t even be allowed on the stage. He’d be way out in left field somewhere near the restrooms.

The man knew how to compromise when compromise would achieve results. He raised the debt ceiling. He hiked taxes when he had to. He never took his eye off the ball, which was to do what he thought was best for the country. He had his own way of interpreting what was best, certainly, but he always kept an open mind regarding other people’s interpretations. Respect, that’s what Reagan was about.

So there was no place in the Reagan Presidential Library the other night for a candidate who was willing to depart from strict ideological purity in the name of pragmatism. Of the group, Jon Huntsman may come closest to appearing reasonable, but look what’s happening to him: Most primary voters don’t even know how to spell his name correctly.

Instead, Rick Perry got a roaring ovation from the bloodthirsty crowd for his accomplishment of executing more people than anybody else in the field, or maybe in history--I can’t remember. If Ronald Reagan were alive, he probably would have turned off his hearing aids.

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I may not have agreed with all of Reagan's positions, but I did respect the man for this: he did have a level of charisma that few politicians before or since did. Also, as was the case with his successor Bush Sr., he saw the world the way it really was and adapted where he had to--as opposed to Bush Jr., and most (if not all) of the GOP candidates today, who see the world as they would like it to be and refuse to adapt. (And incidentally, this is *not* restricted to Republicans...)

That couldn't have been said any better.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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