A very interesting piece is in the Wall Street Journal today, about the Republican Party and the Era of Ronald Reagan. Republicans and most Conservatives; including this writer, find themselves nostalgic about the Reagan era. The 1980’s was a magical time for me. I could get into all that; but this entry would soon turn into a sappy trip down memory lane. Because I am not ready to break out the ensure and reminisce about the good old days just yet, I will spare you the stories. —– I mean, I am only 36 people, give a guy a break!
Getting back on track here, the Wall Street Journal does an excellent piece on the Era of Reagan and the Republican Party. Here is a summary video:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made headlines last weekend suggesting it’s time for the party to get over its glory days: “I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia and the good old days in the [GOP] messaging. I mean, it’s great, but it doesn’t draw people toward your cause.” Joyful Democratic bloggers put this more clearly in five tight words: GOP Needs to Forget Reagan.
Is this true?
The answer to that historic question is an apt subject this week as the GOP, looking for a path from the wilderness, says farewell at National Cathedral tomorrow to Jack Kemp, who remained a Reaganite to the end.
Jack Kemp, anyone who spent time around him will tell you, stayed on message. That message, like Reagan’s, had a number of parts, but it is not possible to even guess how many times Jack Kemp summarized his explanations of that message in three words: “Work, save and invest.” Republicans should think hard about building a governing philosophy on the foundation of those three words, ideas that most voters understand.
The article goes on to praise Jack Kemp and to further praise Reagan and his ideals. Those ideals, I believe, are important to remember; Self-Reliance, Small Government, Personal Freedom, all are commendable principles and are ones that all Americans should know and believe in. However, it would be a monumental mistake to sit here and not acknowledge the fact that Ronald Reagan’s policies were not perfect at all. The fact is the man had flaws. As humans, we tend to gloss over the bad parts of a President legacy that we hold in high esteem. Even President Franklin Roosevelt, of whom I admire greatly, had flaws as well. Some of his policies did more to hurt, than they did to help.
Richard Gamble over at The American Conservative, writes a very interesting piece on the policies and legacy of President Ronald Reagan, here are some excerpts:
Such an endorsement from one of the greatest inspirations of the post-World War II conservative renaissance carries considerable authority with the movement. And rightly so. It should give pause to anyone reckless enough to challenge Reagan’s legacy. But that legacy itself raises nagging questions. The federal payroll was larger in 1989 than it had been in 1981. Reagan’s tax cuts, whatever their merits as short-term fiscal policy, left large and growing budget deficits when combined with increased spending, and added to the national debt. His tax increases were among the largest proportionate ones in U.S. history. And more than one historian has called Reagan’s foreign policy “Wilsonian.” In short, it is hard in 2009 to point to any concrete evidence that the Reagan Revolution fundamentally altered the nation’s trajectory toward bloated, centralized, interventionist government. Conservatism in the 1980s made its peace with much of liberalism—if not with all of its legislative agenda, then at least with its means to power. Republicans and Democrats now argue over how big the bailouts should be or how long the troops should remain deployed, rarely about first principles.
Reagan’s speeches abounded with themes that were anything but conservative. He aligned the Republican crusader more closely with America’s expansive liberal temperament. In particular, his brand of evangelical Christianity, combined with fragments of Puritanism, enlightenment optimism, and romantic liberalism, set Reagan apart in key ways from historic conservatism.
Reagan grew up in the 1920s in Dixon, Illinois in the pietistic, revivalist world of the Disciples of Christ—a world known to many millions of American evangelicals then and since. Biographer Edmund Morris’s Dutch (1999) and Paul Kengor’s God and Ronald Reagan (2004) make much of the “practical Christianity” espoused by Reagan’s mother, the local pastor and congregation, and such religious best-sellers as That Printer of Udell’s. This activist faith shared important assumptions with the social gospel’s “applied Christianity.” Both set out to remake the City of Man through the power of the church’s moral influence. Reagan’s spirituality was shaped by a “Jesus-only” populist Christianity that emphasized the conversion experience and an activist faith suspicious of creeds, rituals, ecclesiastical bodies, and denominational boundaries.
Reagan never turned away from this transformationist Christianity. It became a fundamental part of his civil religion. Historian John Patrick Diggins, in Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History (2007), goes as far as to say that the president’s theology “seemed to offer a Christianity without Christ and the crucifixion, a religion without reference to sin, evil, suffering, or sacrifice.” Diggins’s implicit question, “Why couldn’t Reagan have been more like Reinhold Niebuhr?” may not be exactly the right one. Why should we expect our presidents to do theology at all, even neo-orthodox theology? But his point is well taken. Reagan’s optimistic Christianity seemed ready made for an America disinclined to hear talk of limits to power and wealth. The historic Christian message can sound downright un-American.
In a further criticism, Lukacs traced the “militarization of the image of the presidency” to Reagan. It was Reagan, after all, who began the practice of returning the salutes of the military—a precedent followed by every president since. While doing so may seem to honor the military, it in fact erodes the public’s understanding of the presidency as a civilian office, Lukacs argued. Indeed, Fox News bears out Lukacs’s warning. The cable news giant got into the habit during the Bush II administration of referring to the president as commander in chief no matter what story they were reporting, seemingly unaware that the nation’s executive is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Untied States and not commander in chief of the American people at large. If the president visits a city ravaged by a hurricane, he is emphatically not there in his role as commander in chief. If every American thinks of the president—of whatever political party—as my commander in chief and not narrowly as the Army or Navy’s commander in chief, then we have taken another decisive step from republic to empire. If every American expects the president to be the commander in chief of the economy, then we can’t be surprised by nationalized banks and corporations.
I think it would be a good idea to read that article in it’s entirety to truly get what is being said. It is indeed a truly interesting article to read.
My take on the subject at hand is this; The Republican Party needs to catch up with the times. This is not 1981; this is 2009, America is facing some serious challenges in this new era. The Republican Party needs to provide a sane alternative to the socialist madness of the Democratic Party; doing so, while keeping Reagan’s principles in mind. But the Republican Party must also be mindful that some, not all, some of Reagan’s policies did more to hurt, than they did to help. If they do this properly, they will be able to retake the White House in 2012. Another important issue is who they choose to run against Obama in 2012. If they try and run someone like Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin, they are going to get eaten alive in the election. However, if they run someone like Mark Sanford; they might just have a chance at winning. The problem with the Republican Party has not been principles, but the framing of the Party’s message. The Party needs to be a little more Mark Sanford and Ron Paul, and maybe even Pat Buchanan and much less Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity and Ingraham. There is nothing wrong with Conservative principles, but when the people that are attempting to promote them are doing more to alienate, than they are to actually promote them, something is wrong.
It has been said, that you can catch more files with honey than you can with vinegar. The Republican Party needs to work on that.
Update: Thanks to memeornadum for the link in and hello to the readers from that service!
Update #2: Hello to all the readers of the Moderate Voice, thanks to Joe for the link in!