Conservative Republican candidates wear Ronald Reagan as a badge of honor. Moderate Republicans use him as a shield.
Conservatives embrace Reagan’s “government is the problem, not the solution” philosophy. Moderates hide behind his 11th Commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” — to duck criticism of bad votes.
And in case you’ve missed it, there’s a national wave building of viable conservative candidates mounting GOP primary challenges against incumbent moderates, including right here in Nevada. And the threat is so serious that Gumby Republicans are again using Reagan’s 11th Commandment to discourage and discredit such conservative challenges.
Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.
First and foremost, recall that Reagan himself mounted a conservative challenge to a sitting incumbent moderate, President Gerald Ford, in the 1976 Republican primary.
As such, conservatives such as Lisa Krasner, who is challenging moderate Republican Assemblyman Randy Kirner in Reno, and conservative Carl Bunce, who is challenging Republican Sen. “Moderate Mike” Roberson in Las Vegas, aren’t violating a Reagan principle; they’re following his example!
Furthermore, moderates have regularly twisted and perverted the meaning of the 11th Commandment for years, to the point that Reagan biographer Craig Shirley felt compelled to ink a column for Politico in 2011 to clear up the “misunderstanding and misinformation surrounding” it.
“The 11th Commandment was created in 1966 by Gaylord Parkinson, the Golden State’s Republican Party chairman,” Shirley wrote. “After the bloodbath in the 1964 California primary between Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Parkinson was trying to put the party back together.
“The commandment never meant that one Republican could not criticize the policies or philosophies of another Republican. It meant only that one could or should not engage in personal attacks on another Republican.”
So if Ms. Krasner were to refer to Assemblyman Kirner as an amiable dunce or Mr. Bunce were to say that Sen. Roberson’s beard makes him look like a teenage werewolf, those would be clear violations of the 11th Commandment.
However, should both conservative challengers accurately point out that the incumbent moderates have been serial tax hikers in violation of the official Nevada Republican Party platform, that’s fair game.
And of course, no discussion of how moderates try to hide behind the 11th Commandment would be complete without noting the complete hypocrisy of said moderates when the shoe is instead on the other foot.
Indeed, when a moderate challenges an incumbent conservative in a GOP primary, personal attacks such as “extremist,” “nutjob,” “wacko,” “radical,” “religious kook” and worse are regularly tossed about with reckless abandon.
So buck up, conservatives. The next time some Gumby Republican criticizes you for criticizing or running against them, simply ask yourself one question … WWRRD? What would Ronald Reagan do?
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at email@example.com.