COMMENTARY | As President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney engage in what seems certain to be a close race for the White House, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush this week opined that his father, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan would not do well in the modern Republican Party. Bush pointed out that they "got a lot of stuff done with bipartisan support."
Based on record, in fact, it seems that not only would Reagan in particular have a difficult time getting nominated by the today's Republicans, he would even be too liberal for a sizable percentage of today's Democrats.
Imagine where Barack Obama would be today, even within his own party, if his record was anywhere as liberal as Reagan's.
Reagan, who started his career as a Democrat, signed TEFRA, which his own adviser labeled the largest tax increase in American history, and one that amounted to 1 percent of GDP. While he expected spending cuts in return, they never materialized, and if that was truly that surprising to Reagan, then his wide-eyed look was perhaps less calculated than it seemed.
For his part, Obama has not raised any meaningful tax increases.
On immigration reform, Reagan's actions were to the left of any president in modern history. In 1986, Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which did attempt to make it more difficult to illegally enter the United States, but also provided a clear path to citizenship for nearly 3 million illegal aliens already in the country.
For his part, Obama has done little except to urge Republicans to look at the illegal immigrant problem.
Reagan used a very diplomatic approach with regards to perceived enemies of the United States, as he met and negotiated repeatedly with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan also took a very strong anti-torture stance by signing the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Where Obama and Reagan may have found some common ground is in the growth of government and spending. During Reagan's years in office, he eliminated no significant government agencies, though he added Veteran's Affairs, the number of federal employees grew from 2.8 million to 3.0 million, and the national debt more than quadrupled, from $700 million to $3 trillion.
It seems clear that while he would surely have a strong base of support in today's Democratic Party, Reagan's positions would likely make him the loser to the more centrist Barack Obama.