It is no secret that Republicans love Ronald Reagan. Virtually all of the 2016 presidential candidates have already offered up some sort of tribute to the conservative demi-god and that praise will likely continue tonight when they all square up for tonight’s CNN’s debate… at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Even unapologetic billionaire real estate mogul, Donald Trump, has paid his respects to the patron saint of Republicanism, with his slogan “Make America Great Again.”
But in the eyes of the National Immigration Forum Action Fund, “making America great again,” seems to mean something different for the GOP in 2016 than it did to Reagan.
The GOP Haunted by the Ghost of 80s Past
Timed just before this week’s Republican presidential debate, this pro-immigration reform group released a television ad that juxtaposes Ronald Reagan’s welcoming stance on immigration with the rhetoric of the current GOP field. Needless to say it’s a dramatic shift.
Mixed with panoramic shots of U.S. cities and a montage of multi-ethnic faces, we hear a portion of Reagan’s farewell address where he famously describes “a shining city… teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace.”
The ad jumps ahead 26 years later with Donald Trump claiming illegal immigrants are “bringing crime… they’re rapists,” and then to Scott Walker and Ted Cruz calling for an end to birthright citizenship.
“Ronald Reagan had a different vision for America,” the ad reads, before returning to Reagan’s speech and a montage of an America full of working families, sprawling farms and breathtaking landscapes.
Indeed he did – his 1986 immigration reform bill legalized 3 million undocumented immigrants. Also, Reagan once famously quipped, “Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet” – a hopeful wish GOP candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are struggling to hold on to today.
“In my mind it was a tall proud city… open to anyone with the will and heart to get here,” we hear Reagan say. “That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
The ReTrumplican Backlash
Many argue that if Reagan was alive today, he would no doubt be troubled by the campaign rhetoric coming from his fellow Republicans whose views are, by nearly any measure, far to the right of Ronald Reagan’s.
This six-figure ad buy includes time on CNN, MSNBC and Fox during their pre- and post-debate coverage, according to the Washington Post. But The National Immigration Forum Action Fund is not the only pro-immigration group looking to buy up ad time during CNN’s debate.
According to the New York Times, The Latino Victory Project, co-founded by DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz and actress Eva Longoria are looking to air an ad criticizing the Republican presidential field as well. This is echoed by a growing number of business leaders calling for others to denounce the GOP field for what AOL’s Steve Case recently called a “rising tide of anti-immigrant activism.”
We will find out tonight who will heed the warning, and who will shout over it.
This article originally appeared at I Agree to See.