We've all heard it said about Ronald Reagan.
It usually goes something like: The Republican Party has become so extreme, so crazy right-wing conservative, that Reagan wouldn't survive a primary today.
The person saying it typically tries to sound original and authoritative when making this pronouncement, but the fact is that the talking point is overused and inaccurate. There's not a single major Republican position today that Ronald Reagan didn't champion in 1960, 1970 or 1980.
The 10th anniversary of Reagan's death is coming up in June, so we'll no doubt be deluged soon with claims of an altered GOP since his time from every left-of-center political pundit with a pen or seat on a television panel. I don't know about you, but I plan to embrace the opportunity and ask: "How do you think John F. Kennedy would fare in today's Democratic Party?"
That's a far more pregnant question, because today's Democratic Party is virtually unrecognizable from the one Kennedy led in 1960. It is impossible to imagine the anti-socialist, trickle-down-economics, widely believed anti-abortion Kennedy competing as a candidate in the Democratic Party of 2014.
Consider a few our 35th president's statements. Imagine the ads that would be made against Kennedy by a Barack Obama, Bill de Blasio (New York City mayor) or Debbie Wasserman Schultz (chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee) were they to be running against him.
"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates." -- JFK, Nov. 20, 1962
"Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested will help create a new job and a new salary. And these new jobs and new salaries can create other jobs and other salaries and more customers and more growth for an expanding American economy." -- JFK, Aug. 13, 1962
"On the question of limiting population: as you know the Japanese have been doing it very vigorously, through abortion, which I think would be repugnant to all Americans."
On federal overreach:
"The ever expanding power of the federal government, the absorption of many of the functions that states and cities once considered to be responsibilities of their own, must now be a source of concern to all those who believe, as did the great patriot Henry Grattan, that: 'Control over local affairs is the essence of liberty.' " Jan. 29, 1950
On individual rights:
"Conceived in Grecian thought, strengthened by Christian morality, and stamped indelibly into American political philosophy, the right of the individual against the State is the keystone of our Constitution." July 4, 1946
On military preparedness:
" 'Pursue peace,' the Bible tells us, and we shall pursue it with every effort and every energy that we possess. But it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war." -- JFK, Sept. 6, 1960
On liberalism itself:
" 'I'd be very happy to tell them I'm not a liberal at all . . . I'm not comfortable with those people." -- JFK, June 1953
These are not outlier quotes from Kennedy. The ideas behind his words were central to Kennedy's philosophy as an American Democrat. They're not only foreign to many of today's Democratic leaders, they are anathema. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Vice President Joe Biden would drum a John Kennedy out of today's party.
In a hypothetical Republican primary among today's crop of potential presidential candidates, Reagan would lap the field. But there is one candidate who might give Reagan a run for his money in a general election: Kennedy. I'm not suggesting Kennedy wouldn't be a Democrat if he were alive today. But his remarks are indelible evidence of just how far left his party has drifted.
Something to think about as the anniversary of Ronald Reagan's passing arrives.