Yes and no, mainly because of the self-contradictory nature of the American voter.
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How could that be? Answer: it cannot. It is impossible. Barack Obama could never model his presidency on that of Ronald Reagan. The two are irreconcilable. You cannot take a president who is a paragon of liberalism and one who was a paragon of conservatism and match them ideologically.
On the other hand, it isn’t a shock that Americans would look to Reagan as their model for the current president. Two years after the Clarus survey, a Gallup poll released for Presidents’ Day 2011 ranked Reagan the “greatest president” of all time, garnering 19% of the vote among 44 presidents, beating Lincoln fairly soundly, who finished second at 14%. Gallup began asking the “greatest president” question in 1999. Of the 13 times Gallup has done the survey, the public placed Reagan first four times — 2001, 2005, 2011, and 2012 — and always in the top three. A Zogby poll likewise released for Presidents’ Day 2011, which asked about presidents since World War II, listed Reagan as the “greatest,” with FDR second and Kennedy third. And get this one: an extraordinary June 2005 online survey by the Discovery Channel and AOL (which included 2.4 million participants) declared Reagan the “greatest American of all time,” beating Lincoln and Washington.
This raises an inexplicable question: How does that same citizenry twice elect Barack Obama? That’s a darned good question.
Well, maybe this sudden admiration for Reagan conservatism suddenly changed in November 2012? Something must have shifted, right? Surely, there must have been far more self-identified liberals than conservatives in the November election?
Nope, though liberals did draw a little closer. According to CNN exit polling, 35% of voters on November 6, 2012 described themselves as “conservative,” and 25% chose “liberal.” This was identical to a Pew poll that likewise found a margin of 35-25%.
This also applies to the critical Hispanic vote, which went for Obama by a landslide in November. In one survey from the election, Hispanics self-identified as conservatives over liberal by two to one, 27% to 14%. That’s no surprise whatsoever. Hispanics are socially conservative. They are Catholic, churchgoing, pro-life, and don’t support gay marriage. They should not have voted for Obama at all, let alone by over 70%, as they did.
Importantly, some conservatives have disputed these self-designations, insisting that many of those who describe themselves as conservative really aren’t, and that there are more liberals than those willing to admit it. Here and there, that may be true. But, overall, I think the designations are probably fairly accurate, and have been consistent for a long time now. After all, when you break down the data, and ask voters questions like whether they prefer more taxes and more government, well, they generally don’t — even when they vote that way. They favor the conservative vision. It appeals to them. And though your television may have convinced you that half of America is gay, well, it’s far and away not — and the vast majority don’t support gay marriage either (not yet), or taxpayer-funding of abortion. No, but they vote for candidates who do.
There are untold numbers of Hispanics and also blacks who plainly are not liberal, who are especially conservative on social and religious issues, but who vote Democrat reflexively. They’re not alone. There are countless old, traditional Roman Catholics (a demographic I know very well) who do the same.
So, what does all of this mean, particularly as applied to the Reagan era?
It means that a self-described conservative, Reagan-loving electorate has twice voted for a hardcore leftist, Barack Obama, to, in effect, end the Reagan era. That wasn’t the intent, but that’s the result.
Thus, it also means — and this would shock Ronald Reagan — that we conservatives really cannot trust the American public. Reagan, of course, insisted just the opposite; he was the quintessential optimist, with an unflagging faith in the American people. He had the greatest confidence in his fellow Americans.
The deeper truth, however, is that the American voter cannot be trusted; the American voter cannot be depended upon to vote rationally. Other elements, far more decisive, influence their voting behavior, such as (among others) the personalities and personas and public images of presidential candidates, the campaigns run by the candidates and their advisers (the David Axelrod factor), and, most critically of all, the liberal mainstream media that serves as a 24/7 full-time partisan/propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. In fact, related to that media point: what Ronald Reagan actually said was that if the American public is presented with both sides, it will always make the right choice.
I’ll end with a dose of Reagan optimism: All of this also means that the Reagan ideal is not over. I believe that most Americans (for now) still prefer the principles of Reagan and his view of government over those of Obama. That is because the Reagan principles are ultimately time-tested and true; they are the universal, unalienable principles of the Founders, rooted in eternal Judeo-Christian values and Natural Law. When liberalism is laid bare, it loses because it is unappealing. Leftists like Barack Obama still must mask their real beliefs and intentions. A conservative like Ronald Reagan never had to do that with conservatism.
What will it take to resurrect the Reagan era? It will take the right Republican presidential candidate and the right campaign, and Republicans unifying and rallying behind the candidate — and not joining the New York Times and liberal smear-artists in attacking and demonizing our guy (or girl). Or, as another (less appealing) alternative, it might require a moderate or rare conservative Democrat, the next pied-piper to lead the unquestioning Democrat masses. (That’s quite easy to do; Democrats will vote for and follow any Democrat, regardless of that Democrat’s beliefs. A moderate or conservative Democrat could stand against and repudiate absolutely everything Obama did and fellow Democrats would still support him.)
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.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?