Last night I spoke to the Pima County Republican Women at a tribute to Ronald Reagan in Tucson. It was an outstanding event, made even more special by jelly beans and little “WWRD — What Would Ronnie Do?” signs.
I noted that one of the reasons Reagan was so effective was his congeniality, and his ability to win over everyone from Tip O’Neill and foreign leaders with personal charm and kindness. Then I said:
“This is a lesson our Party desperately needs to be reminded of today. We have a number of core Republican principles – with PRO-PAC I’ve noted 9 key issues. But someone who agrees with us on 7 or 8 of the 9 issues is our friend, not our enemy. Right now we have a tendency to take people who agree with us on 7 or 8 of these 9 issues and shoot them. Our Party is a coalition. The end result of destroying each other with harsh language and insults is that we destroy unity, discourage participation and guarantee that we will be governed by a Democrat who agrees with us on ZERO of the 9 core positions.”
Being kind does not mean backing off your position. We have primary elections and platform battles because it is important to debate and decide what we stand for as a political party. But being kind does mean giving people the benefit of the doubt regarding their motives. Sen. Jon Kyl is not a traitor for trying to improve a bad bill, and those of us who opposed the immigration bill because it contained insufficient border security measures are not racists. I thought Rep. John Shadegg’s thoughtful opposition to the immigration bill was right on the mark, especially his even-handed acknowledgement that overheated rhetoric on both sides of this important debate has been destructive.
I think Reagan would be proud of Congressman Shadegg’s leadership. I know I am.