I have heard many national GOP candidates make mention of their affinity for President Reagan when addressing audiences. Simply channeling “The Gipper” has become almost a necessity to make a good impression especially on those who remember the two-term president from California. His calm voice, his presence, his speech on the Berlin Wall, and his being the last POTUS to survive an assassination attempt are forever etched in my memory.
And I am not even a registered republican.
Governor, you have invoked the spirit of another beloved republican U.S. President when you began to define yourself as an “Eisenhower Republican” early in your term. And just like people such as Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz when they summon the ghost of Reagan, you are donning yourself in borrowed robes.
Why? Because you are nothing like Eisenhower.
Eisenhower built roads. Literally built roads. He oversaw the creation of the interstate highway system that linked communities and cities together. While you claim to want to create a similar infrastructure, it is odd that there are many metaphorical roads that you have allowed to erode. With supporting a Voter ID law, HB2, and tax breaks for the wealthy, you are actually enabling the burning of social bridges that is further dividing people in our state.
President Eisenhower expanded the New Deal programs started by FDR. He created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to implement programs to help needy individuals. “HEW” eventually gave rise to two mainstays in federal government: the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, two federal agencies that you seem to shun.
Oddly enough, your administration has enabled privatization efforts in public education with Opportunity Grants and rampant growth of for-profit charter schools. Furthermore, your decision to reject Medicaid expansion for people in your own state shows a glaring disconnect to the spirit of Eisenhower especially when almost one in four children here in NC live in poverty. Your policies have even led to reduction in unemployment benefits for many who needed them.
The former president also was known for his many press conferences. He held more of them than any president up until his tenure. He had no fear of talking to the media or reaching out to the people of the country through the press. You will not even answer questions from the media concerning HB2 and other matters that directly affect our citizens.
The late president was once quoted as saying, “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.” He made that statement in response to a growing faction in his party of ultra-conservative, Tea-Party like politicians who wanted to drive the Republican Party further to the right.
President Eisenhower stood up to people in his own political party for the sake of principle rather than bowing to personality. But I do not see that same type of character in you, Governor. You rarely issue a veto, and you regularly kowtow to GOP cogs such as Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore. You seem more of the enabler than the leader when compared to the ultra-right-wing faction in North Carolina.
President Eisenhower helped to defeat the scourge of Nazism. He faced a growing threat of communism and the Cold War with stern principles, yet still maintained peace. He helped in desegregation, believing that there were “no second class citizens of this country.”
He was a man of action, not of empty words.
So, how can you truly call yourself an “Eisenhower Republican?”