On the eve of his 100th birthday, liberals don’t just revise the 40th president’s record — they practically claim him as one of their own.
The arrival of Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday will be accompanied by a chorus of fond reminiscences and misty-eyed appreciations.
In fact, the tributes are already underway. And, they are not just coming from Dutch’s ideological descendants. President Barack Obama, writing in USA Today, gushed about the 40th president’s fondness for change and compromise.
There was a time when a love letter from a liberal leader to Reagan would be surprising. No longer. Death, the hindsight of history, a sympathetic public, and a handful of dedicated historians and opportunistic politicians have turned this once divisive and controversial leader into a bipartisan reminder of our better angels.
This may cause Reaganites to rejoice, but as Gipper-appreciation goes mainstream there is a real risk that his accomplishments, beliefs, and importance will be obscured. And, perhaps worse, appropriated.
The growing consensus on Reagan’s greatness, the direct result of the fall of the Soviet Union and the lifting of the national funk brought on by the painful sequence of Vietnam, Watergate, and Jimmy Carter, is warranted.
And his apotheosis, seen in the proliferation of Ronald Reagan fields, streets, boulevards, turnpikes, peace gardens, bridges, and even a bust in a McDonald’s in Alabama, should be welcomed.
Formerly an amiable dunce, he has become a transcendent visionary lauded by Republicans and Democrats alike.
It’s a not a singular transformation.
Abraham Lincoln, once the “Ape Baboon of the Prairie,” is now the Great Emancipator; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so-called traitor to his class, is credited with carrying us through the Great Depression; Harry Truman, the former “senator from Pendergast,” is now every would-be president’s beau ideal of a statesman.
The problem with this type of posthumous approbation is that it inevitably shears the prickly partisan edges from the object of adoration and turns them into an all-purpose folk hero, open to subjective interpretations.
Obama for example, constantly searching for a grand political figure to define himself by, seems to have set his sights on Reagan. A lengthy feature in Time laid out the President’s Reaganesque blueprint for the remainder of his term — which of course immodestly replaces the immodest Lincolnesque, and then Rooseveltian ambitions he has already digressed through — while pointing out the (tenuous) similarities between the two men.
Obama’s choice of Reagan as a role model is nothing new. During the 2008 campaign he professed that it was Reagan, rather then Bill Clinton, who matched his transformative vision. Around this time, other Democrats were retrenching as well.
John Kerry and Al Gore positioned Reagan as a foil to the detested George W. Bush by praising his diplomacy and newly-discovered environmental record.Rahm Emanuel confessed to Politico “I never thought I’d say this, but I long for the pragmatism of Ronald Reagan.” Harry Reid told the same publication “[Reagan’s] kind of leadership is missing today. That’s what the American people want back.”
This new, warm and cuddly (and generally non-idelogical) Reagan is not just the exclusive property of politicians. In Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History, the late historian John Patrick Diggins’s postulated that Reagan was not even a conservative. According to Diggins, “Far from being a conservative, Reagan was the great liberating spirit of modern American history.… Reagan’s relation to liberalism may illuminate modern America more than his relation to conservatism…”
In these new narratives, Reagan is a hero and a great president, but the emphasis is on his pragmatism, diplomacy, and generally unconservative behavior. It’s increasingly difficult to find the conservative who generated histrionic levels of disgust from Democrats.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?