Reagan the Pragmatist (and RINO)
As president, the conservative icon approved several tax increases to deal with a soaring budget deficit, repeatedly boosted the nation’s debt limit, signed into law a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and, despite his anti-Washington rhetoric, oversaw an increase in the size and spending of the federal government. Before that, as California governor, he enacted what at the time was the largest state tax increase in American history. He also signed into law one of the nation’s most permissive abortion bills; any Republican who tried that today would be cast out of the party.
The fact that Reagan often took the actions grudgingly speaks to what, by modern Republican standards, may be one of the greatest heresies of all: At bottom, Reagan was a pragmatist, willing, when necessary, to cut a deal and compromise.
"He had a strong set of core values and operated off of those," said Stuart Spencer, a GOP strategist who stood by Reagan’s side for virtually his entire political career, starting with his first run for governor. "But when push came to shove, he did various things he didn’t like doing, because he knew it was in the best interests of the state or country at the time."
Without getting into a question of evaluating Reagan’s policy choices, I think that the above-emphasized sections underscore a major problem with the contemporary GOP: there is an unwillingness to be pragmatic about governing.
Governance, especially of the democratic variety, requires compromise and a fundamental acknowledgment that one is unlikely to get exactly what one wants. This reality appears to be anathema to a large swath of the GOP these days.
"People that pragmatic now are what they call RINOs," said Spencer, using the epithet, "Republican in Name Only," that is flung by keepers of the faith at those deemed less than pure.