In 2022, the Republican Party could really use a pep talk from the Gipper.
How the GOP of today cries out for the spirit of Ronald Reagan. He got right so many things that the Republicans of today are getting wrong.
For instance, I don’t suppose Reagan, an ardent foe of the Soviet Union who demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall” in Berlin, would look kindly on how former President Donald Trump fawns over Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the early days of the invasion of Ukraine, Trump dubbed Putin a “genius.”
Yes, because nothing moves your Mensa application to the top of the pile like overestimating the competence of your forces and underestimating the resistance of the opposition.
Nor would Reagan be proud of how some Republicans have of late done the bidding of organized labor by twisting an “America First” agenda into a familiar form of tariff-driven protectionism that says U.S. industries should be excused from having to compete with global competitors. For Republicans, the first hint that they made a colossal mistake by falling in line behind Trump’s restrictive trade policies should have been when the Biden administration decided to keep those policies in place.
And, of course, “Dutch” — who signed into law the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted legal status to nearly 2.7 million undocumented people — would surely be disgusted by the way in which many Republicans now approach immigration. Whereas Reagan believed in welcoming the stranger and often spoke about how immigrants benefit America, the Republicans of today opportunistically grab hold of the issue with a toxic combination of dishonesty, cynicism, racism and fear.
Not that Democrats are much better. They lie to constituents and rail against the same restrictionist immigration policies that they later adopt as their own. They cater to organized labor, much of which wants to keep out foreign workers who could turn into competitors. They rack up record numbers of deportations, put refugee kids in cages and embrace light-skinned Ukraine refugees while rounding up dark-skinned Haitians using Border Patrol agents on horseback. Then, instead of just admitting their sins, anti-immigrant Democrats point fingers at Republicans for being the preferred party of nativists.
I’m not sure. Has anyone polled nativists? I imagine they would be fine with the parts of President Joe Biden’s immigration agenda that were borrowed from Trump.
However, one recent development that is causing angst among Republicans, and other Americans, is the Biden administration’s decision to “86” Title 42. The controversial public health statute — which has allowed Customs and Border Protection agents to turn away, since March 2020, as many as 1.7 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border without letting them apply for asylum — is set to end on May 23.
All this turning away was done under the pretense of helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the United States, but where both the Trump and Biden administration really found Title 42 useful was as a convenient device to keep out immigrants and refugees.
In fact, the statute is so convenient that, in the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would keep Title 42 in place — presumably forever or at least until senators no longer have to run for re-election, whichever comes first.
Meanwhile, in the four U.S. states that border Mexico, Republicans are panic-stricken. They warn that the nation’s southern border is about to be overrun by the underprivileged, the unwashed, the unwanted.
You know, the same kinds of folks who built this country in the first place.
Leave it to politicians — in both parties — to take something intended to be temporary, and try to make it permanent to serve their short-term political interests.
Title 42 was supposed to be a temporary behavior modification to protect public health. You know, like masking. But while many Republicans couldn’t wait to rip off their masks and protest against efforts by bureaucrats and local governing bodies to make masking permanent, they are in no similar hurry to surrender Title 42.
But surrender, we must. With nary a peep from Congress, the Biden administration has already lifted the policy with regard to Ukrainians who wish to apply for refugee status. It can’t justify not doing the same for desperate people from other dark corners of the world.
America is strong enough and good enough to handle whatever comes her way. Just like she always has.
At least, I bet that’s how Reagan would see it.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.