Rep. Roth has filed a bill to create a Ronald Reagan specialty tag here in the state of Florida. Specialty license plates have proliferated to a point where they hardly noticeable, but this one certainly will get lots of attention and perhaps even bring some road rage among those of us it would offend.
In the late 1990’s the “Reagan Legacy Project” fronted by GOP uber-operative Grover Norquist (who has been oddly quiet of late) pushed renaming of entities after the former President throughout the country. Here in Florida we got the “Ronald Reagan Turnpike,” enthusiastically passed by GOP legislators who had just gained power. The legislature was lauded by conservatives for naming Florida’s Main Street after a Californian instead of a Floridian.
But 2017 seems a good time to talk about Reagan again in Florida. After all this is man who launched his General Election campaign of 1980 in Philadelphia, Mississippi the same town where three Civil Rights workers had been slain fourteen years earlier. The topic of Reagan’s speech that day? States Rights! (States Rights has of course long been code for segregation and racism.)
Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House may threaten the survival of the Republic, but if the United States survived Ronald Reagan we can survive anything.
Reagan’s 1980 campaign which was based partly on suspended reality bordering on outright fictional fantasy and largely on race and religion baiting was wildly successful south of Ocala in the state. Florida was easily Reagan’s best southern state in this election and gave him a larger margin of victory by percentage than any state east of the Mississippi except for then rock-ribbed Republican New Hampshire.
Floridians especially those who were transplants from up north seemed to really love Reagan. Reagan won the state by 17 points in 1980 winning counties such as Orange and Broward by a nearly a 2 to 1 margin. (Broward was one of the few large counties in the country where Reagan’s 1980 margin was cut dramatically in 1984, an election where Reagan recorded a record landslide victory nationally. Broward was Reagan’s third worst Florida county in 1984, after being one of his best in 1980. In 1984 Reagan won Florida by 30 points winning every county except for African-American majority Gadsden). Reagan also won by huge margins in Dade, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Hillsborough while barely carrying Duval, which oddly voted almost identically in 1980 as it did in 2016 unlike just every other Florida county.
Following his election Reagan pushed through legislation that was contrary to American values. Perhaps no piece of legislation has been more damaging to the ideal of the American dream than Reagan’s irresponsible tax cuts passed in 1981. These tax cuts sent the US economy into a deep recession and allowed Reagan to build up a bigger Federal deficit than the every previous President combined. Much of the US economic engine and manufacturing base never fully recovered from the irresponsible economics of the 1980’s pushed by Reagan’s “supply side” theorists and big business who benefited from the tax cut. When Donald Trump laments the collapse of the American manufacturing sector and crushing of the Middle Class he need not look any further than a President we must assume he voted for twice.
Reagan’s economic policies were almost direct contrarian responses to the Nixon/Ford years when Republican Presidents managed international monetary and oil crises by responsibly managing the US budget and economy. While modern conservative pundits have criticized Nixon’s policies on the economy, he steered the United States through a potentially devastating period of time by actively using executive power, a floating currency and price controls to curb inflationary potential. Perhaps it was an excessive anti-capitalist reaction, but it may have prevented a depression.
The Republican Party of today was created by Ronald Reagan with enthusiastic backing of Floridians. It seems an appropriate way to honor the beginning for the Trump era for the nation’s worst legislature over the last two decades to consider a piece of legislation that would honor Reagan in a manner not even his biggest backers could envision.