The Republican Party and Reagan

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! 😀

6 thoughts on “The Republican Party and Reagan

  1. So, you were 7 or 8 years old when Reagan was first elected? Do tell what marvelous insights you have from those “magical” days?
    Be sure to fully discuss how he talked the talk, but didn’t bother to walk the walk. Tell about how he expanded the War on Drugs and grew the size and scope of the Federal government.
    You greatly admire FDR? Then how on earth do you have a problem with socialism and Obama?
    Having read your stuff in the past I believe what you admire is State violence.

    1. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Including asinine opinions like yours.

      As for the war on drugs. Some of it, is quite silly. Some of it, I feel, is justified.

      As far as FDR, he lead this Nation during a time of war. More than I can say for the current liberal lightweight we have now. This is because the Democratic Party is a totally different Party today, than it was in the 1940’s. That leadership; I admired, I have little for the outright socialism of today’s party. In FDR’s days, it was more nuanced, than anything else.

      State Violence? Hardly. I believe in small Government, not anarchy. I believe in keeping the peace, and I support law enforcement. I realize that there are those who abuse their authority, but not all police officers are bad people.

      Normally, I would remove an ad hominem comment such as this, but I want to people to see the mindset of some of the people that actually do visit this blog.

  2. Oh bogus dude. For all Ronnie’s rhetoric, he didn’t deliver. The military spending went through the roof, he created A MASSIVE, SICK AND TWISTED BLOOD BATH IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA where our black ops people published and trained people how to be terrorists and torturers, let’s indeed not forget about “the war on drugs” which is just another term for the war on American citizens, he did NOTHING to alter or abolish the IRS or the taxation system (which he told us he came to realize was fundamentally un-American), he commissioned the Gold Commission upon which served none other than our own Ron Paul whom explained to Ronnie quite clearly what needed to be done and once again Ronnie did NOTHING and let’s not forget “trickle down economics” which explains half the truth, for some did trickle down while it was torrenting UP (rich got richer, poor got poorer). And we have strong evidence to suggest that he and the Pentagon COLLUDED WITH IRAN to keep the hostages until AFTER CARTER WAS OUT AND REAGAN WAS IN.

    Oh and let’s see what else we find in our little walk down memory lane. Ah yes, speaking of Iran, did you happen to hear about a little thing called THE IRAN-CONTRA SCANDAL IN WHICH OUR MILITARY SOLD DRUGS AND USED IT TO BUY WEAPONS TO TRANSFER TO THE CONTRAS IN DIRECT AND UTTER VIOLATION OF THE LAW? Ever hear of a joker called Ollie North?

    Find the tapes and replay them and watch Ronnie develop selective amnesia again and again. For a president who did so very much behind the scenes, how could we have considered him competent if he COULDN’T REMEMBER ANY DAMN THING ATALL?

    The CIA just LOVED that one so much that they continue to finance their autonomous, unaccountable and ugly black ops with drugs to this very day. On the same planes they used to abduct, torture and murder unaccounted-for numbers of Iraqi and Afghani civilians.

    Ah yes the good old days. Let’s all wax nostalgic about them. Unless young man, you are getting sleepy in which case, good night.


  3. The deification of Ronald Reagan is odd to me every time I read it. It’s just so strange how Repubs turned this deeply flawed man into their role model.

    I think the economic mess stems from a Republican slackness on financial matters that Reagan was largely responsible for – Ronald amped up the deficit and we are all Reaganites today, aren’t we? He believed in deregulation and minimal oversight and greasing the skids for big business. Well, we did that for 30 years and look how well it has worked.

    Greenspan and the free-marketers thought those who owned the $ would be good stewards of it, but they weren’t. Irrational exuberance, and a culture of responsibility that has simply vanished in American society.

    Ronald pulled out of the Middle East after we were attacked (Marine barracks), he betrayed the Constitution he swore to defend (Iran Contra), and made gov’t BIGGER.

    Why do you deify this man? Because he seemed warm and friendly and optimistic about the US? Hooray, but please let’s grow up.

    Reagan himself would be pilloried today for his beliefs if he came back, by the true-believers.

    Just IMAGINE if Obama signs an amnesty (which is what Meese called it!) like Reagan DID.

    The Reagan double standard is an awesome thing to behold. Republicans are completely unaware of how deeply Reagan violated basic notions of decency, rule of law, etc.

    They just minimize, saying “He was human, though, with his flaws…” Thanks for the reminder! Like I didn’t know that. That very comment is revealing because it shows just how untethered from Planet Earth their assessment of their Deity has become.

    And to think that Republicans mock Obama as ‘The One!’ Deeply in denial…

  4. magoo, some good points but Reagan’s decision to pull our of Beirut was one of the only truly sensible things he did. I consider this to be rational. We have it from some insiders that this was the moment he understood that the midEast functioned by entirely different rules and the only sensible action was simple to withdraw. That’s what you do when you discover your tactics or strategy isn’t working.

    It’s a pity it costed so many American lives for the man to learn, but he did in fact learn. This helps us to understand Ronnie’s psychology because he was able to see how his plan was flawed in the Muslim world, but they are Muslims. If they were socialists of communists, by Gods, the man would have spilled blood from now until final redemption.

    All other points aside, Ronnie was never a soldier but he did indeed play them in movies. Ordering good men to their deaths must have seemed very cinematic to him as it did GWB and all the chickenhawk neocons. Ronnie’s minimal realizations do not absolve him of the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents.

  5. A well placed operative gave testimony before congress. I won’t bother finding a link, I’m not here to make a “federal case” here on Pat’s blog (although I hope this statement drips with the irony it so desperately want to wear out on the town).

    He said (and I paraphrase with near exactitude):

    You show up in the village and find a mark. Any mark. There before his wife and children, you peel the skin off his face, castrate him and force him to eat his testicles, you hang him from a tree and gut him like a chicken as you force the people to watch and occasionally, for sheer variation of this repetitive theme, you do the same to his wife and children.

    This and many other articles of documented fact are the true legacy of Ronald Reagan.

    And this explains much of what we fear in the new police state and New World Order. A nation that makes a science of practicing depravity will soon practice same on their own people. Evil begets evil.

    But don’t take it too foundationally. Ronnie didn’t invent evil. The purge of my spirit people in Native America insured this path unless we change.

    And we are that change. The only thing that remains to be seen is if we are sufficient.

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