Thursday, July 02, 2009

Misremembering Reagan

by Ramesh Ponnuru - July 6th, 2009 (Publication Date) - National Review

Contemporary Republican politicians might find two features of Reagan’s rhetoric instructive. The first is that when he was not appearing before movement audiences, his conservatism was rarely explicit. He did not advertise his conformity to a school of thought even when he did, in fact, conform. He did not, that is, sell his policies on the basis of their conservatism. Rather the reverse: He used attractive policies to get people to give his conservatism a look. Hayward notes that Reagan’s televised speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign was “quite ideological,” but that Reagan presented the choice before Americans as “up or down” rather than “left or right.”

The second is that the American Founding loomed large in Reagan’s rhetoric. The political scientist Andrew Busch has found that during his presidency Reagan mentioned the Founders more than his four immediate predecessors combined. He mentioned the Constitution ten times in his memoirs, compared with zero for those predecessors. Those of us who believe that our political inheritance from the Founders is what conservatives ought to be trying to conserve will naturally find this fact heartening. No serious student of Reagan can believe that his constitutionalism was other than sincere. It also served him well politically. It promoted unity among his sometimes fractious supporters. It rooted him in American tradition even as his opponents called him a radical. It provided a connective thread, a coherence, a seriousness, and even a nobility to his politics that it might otherwise have lacked.

That is probably why Reagan accomplished two awesome successes that will stand the test of time. Those two tests were defeating the rampant inflation that he inherited from Jimmy Carter, and winning the Cold War, which many thought we were losing when Reagan came on the scene.

The incredible success in defeating inflation is one that Democrats always want to sweep under the rug. They ridiculed it as Reaganomics at the time. It took guts and staring down many doubters even in the Republican Party to get done what needed to be done. It is an absolute foundation component of the 2nd longest peacetime expansion in the history of our nation. The srength of our nation today is built on that accomplishment.

The Cold War victory over the Soviet Union also required Reagan to stare down and defeat even members of his own party. In Reykjavic his advisers wanted him to accept a compromise that would have let the Soviet Union off the hook and allowed them to continue their military adventures. Reagan would not compromise and it ultimately resulted in freeing all of Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union. The world is more free today and will stay more free because Reagan was President at an important time in our history.

These incredible historic accomplishments are the foundation for the love so many have for Ronald Reagan. Even many who don't understand exactly who he was and how he did it, still understand that his enemies were wrong. He was the overwhelming transformational figure of the 20th Century.

In Duncan Currie's blog
Whose Reagan Is It, Anyway? commenting on the Panesh article, there is a listing of other great books that document Reagans record of greatness. As we continue to deal with the growing catastrophe of Barack Obama, who is trying to return us to the Keynesian disaster of the Jimmy Carter era, someone needs to start explaining conservatism the way Reagan did. They need to find a way to apply conservative answers to today's problems but without calling them conservative.

That is the real Ronald Reagan.


Post a Comment

<< Home