The Problem Isn’t Just Compromise, It’s Not Getting Anything in Return


Every now and then the activists of compromise say something like this…

“All of these people at the CPAC will claim that they are Reagan Republicans,” McCain said. “Did they forget that Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to three million Americans? Do they forget that he did raise taxes, that he made an agreement with Tip O’Neill on Social Security, that Ronald Reagan said [the] 11th commandment is you don’t speak ill of your fellow Republicans?”

In the theme of invoking these compromises, McCain also said raising taxes should be an on the table as part of entitlement reform.

“Look, you have to put everything on the table,” he said when asked if a package could include taxes. “If you don’t put everything on the table, then the opposite side says, ‘OK, but we’re not going to agree to, say, raising the retirement age.’ “

There are two problems with the “Reagan did X” argument.


1. Reagan wasn’t perfect. Those who identify themselves as Reagan Republicans aren’t saying that they want to imitate every single thing that Reagan did.

It’s a philosophical identification. And philosophical identifications aren’t usually defined by compromises. Compromises are part of politics, but unless the political figure defined his philosophy by compromise, then it’s not all that relevant.

A philosophical identification is made with a politician’s overall governing style, as well as his ideas and speeches, rather than every single one of his decisions.

Democrats who identify with FDR don’t necessarily support racial segregation in the military. Demanding that they endorse segregation in the military or stop identifying FDR will lead to the same response.


2. Reagan, like every politician, made compromises and mistakes, but he is celebrated because of the overall impact that he made.

Politicians like McCain who protest that Reagan did X, Y or Z, are missing the point. They want to get a pass for amnesty, but they’re not doing anything meaningful to balance that out.

Most conservatives will understand that in a bipartisan system some compromises are necessary to get what you want, but they see a Republican congress that compromises without getting anything worth mentioning. McCain wants to trade higher taxes for raising social security benefits age. I doubt anyone besides Paul Ryan is really waiting for that one.

And it’s not a compromise since Democrats covertly support doing the same thing. So it’s another case of giving the Democrats what they want in exchange for giving them more of what they want.

And it’s not as if that tax money will be going to Social Security. Instead it will go to A. Random pork B. Global Warming C. Welfare in all its varieties

Reagan Republican talk is about leadership. McCain wants to imagine that he’s leading, but he doesn’t seem to grasp that no one is particularly interested in following. And that goes back to the second point. Leaders need credibility. They need to be able to point to what they’ve done.

McCain is busy championing things like a Syrian War or illegal alien amnesty that have as much appeal to Republicans outside government as a dead fish in a cosmetics store.

Reagan assured Republicans that he was going to the right place. Where is McCain going? Where does he want to take the country?

  • truebearing

    John McCain, master polemicist that he is, brings up some of Reagan’s biggest mistakes as some kind of argument for raising taxes. Yes, Reagan made deals with O’Neill, who seldom, if ever, honored them. Amnesty was as bad an idea then as it is now. So it appears McCain wants to keep the mistake making tradition alive by raising taxes so the revenue can be squandered on global warming, or some other boondoggle.

    Retire John. Now.

  • Habbgun

    What McCain also misses is that even the compromises meant that the Reagan revolution moved on. Reagan was the most comprehensive candidate the Republicans ran in my lifetime. His election encompassed changes in foreign policy, welfare, regulation, economics and crime. When McCain compromises he allows the Obama agenda to move on.

  • Anukem Jihadi

    Reagan made a huge mistake with “Amnesty” that McCain obviously never learned from. Reagan could learn though. You never put everything on the table. That’s Edward Snowden.

  • camp7

    With all due respect for his military service, McCain is a slapdash moderate. Unlike Reagan who was a leader by character and direction, McCain seems to accept unlimited compromise as a substitute for leadership. His reckless nettling to continue arming Syrian rebels and shallow understanding of the monolithic immigration reform Senate bill could have been, or will be, disastrous.

    This country cannot survive by continually compromising our values to appease unrealistic philosophies. It’s time to find the leader who knows the right place and how to get there. John McCain lost the way.

    • No RNC

      Wake the hell up! Respect McCain for his military service? The SOB was called the SongBird by his VietCong captures….McCain actually is a total traitor to the US. Read what his fellow US captives say about SongBird!

  • Anukem Jihadi

    Reagan made a huge mistake with “amnesty” McCain obviously never learned from. Reagan was capable of learning though. You never put everything on the table. That’s Edward Snowden.
    Republicans like McCain make the same sorts of compromises with opponents that Democrats these days make in terms of foreign policy.
    They’re the compromises of retreat you make from a position you’re incapable of defending or unwilling to defend.
    The sooner McCain retreats from the political scene altogether the better for everybody.

  • MJUdall

    McCain is flat out lying. He knows why Reagan signed amnesty into law. There was supposed to be border security to follow the law. It never happened. You know, like when McCain did his stupid border commercials in 2010 fooling us into believing that he was serious about controlling the borders. One of Reagan’s biggest regrets was Simpson Mazzoli. I seriously hope this man is not foolish to run again and retires from the Senate.

    • Sparky777

      Speaking of flat out lying, can you provide one quote where Ronald Reagan ever said that he regretted Simpson Mazzoli let alone that it was one of his “biggest” regrets?

  • Adobe_Walls

    The Democrats have welched on every deal they made with Reagan and since then. Reagan learned from this. McCain don’t learn nothing from nothing, Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football because it’s in the script and he’s under contract, McCain does it and wants everyone else to because he’s an old fool. If Reagan were still around and in government he’d be far more cynical about trusting the Dems.
    Everybody not of the left knows the Democrats are lying cheaters but the Republicans just can’t seem to spit those words out. During one of the debates all the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they would refuse a deal for ten dollars in cuts for every one dollar tax hikes. Every one of them raised their hand but not one had the sense or presence of mind to say why. The narrative that Dems break every deal they make trading taxes today for cuts tomorrow had been making the rounds in conservative media for a couple weeks prior to this. This very question had been asked, rhetorically at least, dozens of times shortly before that debate yet none of the candidates or any one on their staffs thought it was important to justify why they wouldn’t accept a deal based on false promises.

  • A Z

    Michael Medved argues for amnesty. He says it is going to happen.

    I could support it. I have said so before in forums. Of course I get attacked. I really do not have a leg to stand on based on past Congressional and executive branch performance.

    I could support amnesty, IF the built the border fence and tracked people who overstayed their visas. But realistically this is not going to happen and there is the rub.

    Obama and other Democrats want to rub our face in it. Pro-Amnnesty Democrats think they are so cute when some of them mealy mouth words such as they will build a better fence after amnesty. We know they do not mean it.

    Without a fence 1st it is all meaningless.

  • kevinstroup

    In the old days we called this “compromise” total unconditional surrender.

  • Sparky777

    McCain might be wrong on amnesty but he is right on Ukraine. And that is what sparked this narrative about “Reagan Republicans”. Ronald Reagan would have stood up to the Russians and helped the people of Ukraine. Ronald Reagan stood for freedom. Freedom is a big, big part of Reaganism.