Last weekend, in the run-up to President Reagan’s 100th birthday, The Christian Science Monitor had a story comparing a number of prominent Republicans with presidential ambitions to Ronald Reagan. While I agree with CSM that it has become quite common for those on the right to compare one politician or another to Ronald Reagan, I found the piece very superficial as the author tried to find a way in which each candidate had certain Reaganesque qualities. I think this is a distortion of and disservice to President Reagan, as his actual record should be compared to anyone claiming his mantle. It may be that journalists are unwilling to examine President Reagan’s actual record, or it may be that they are unwilling to affix the label to any one potential candidate at this time, but when looking at Reagan’s legacy in comparison to today’s potential candidates, there is one who stands out as the most Reaganesque – Jon Huntsman.
Not only are both men former governors of western states and tax reformers, but Reagan and Huntsman are both compromisers, negotiators. President Reagan worked with Democrats and Soviets in the best interests of the American people, and Jon Huntsman has likewise worked with Democrats and the Chinese government, again, in the best interests of the American people. And both Reagan’s and Huntsman’s negotiations have come to bear fruit, as the USSR is no more and the Chinese are beginning to embrace anti-piracy laws.
Both Reagan and Huntsman have a legacy of support for science and technology as well. Most people remember Reagan’s push for technology for national defense, but Jon Huntsman worked tirelessly to support technology development in Utah. But the one area where these two men seem most alike, outside of their bipartisan spirit, is their support for science and the environment. Both Huntsman and Reagan worked to protect the environment. Reagan accepted the science behind the ozone hole and worked to ban CFCs, while Huntsman has said, “We as Republicans can’t shy away from speaking the word ‘environment,’ and we shouldn’t shy away from speaking the words ‘climate change.” President Reagan said of the environment, “And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live – our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”
While I’m not a big fan of labeling anyone “The Next So-and-So,” and don’t I expect the press or punditry to point out how these two men are both moderates, reasonable, and thoughtful – Jon Huntsman is the one potential republican contender who can rightfully claim Reagan’s mantle.