The Reagan Model of National Leadership
“No man can well doubt the propriety of placing a president of the United States under the most solemn obligations to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.” –Joseph Story
This week, we observe the birthday anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan – or “Reagan Day” as it is known around our office.
Ronald Reagan was, and remains, the North Star of the last great conservative revolution – and the next – if more Republicans will abide by their oaths “to Support and Defend” our Constitution and abide by their own political party platform.
At the most recent Republican National Committee confab, some members proposed a “Unity Principle for Support of Candidates” resolution, which identified 10 conservative principles, at least eight of which Republican candidates must support in order to receive RNC funding.
The measure failed, perhaps because more than a few of the current crop of politicos who call themselves “Republican” could not pass muster.
Subsequent to that failed motion, some Leftist intellectuals (an oxymoron, I know, but play along) opined that, based on Reagan’s record, not even he would have passed the test.
Of course, as Leftists are prone to do, they are contorting the record so it will comport with their hypothesis, or as Reagan said famously, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
Unfortunately, at no time did President Reagan have Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, much less a super majority. Because of this, his conservative credentials were sometimes undermined by the opposition. This is most notable in the House’s failure to abide by negotiated government spending cuts to social programs commensurate with the tax cuts and increased defense spending that Reagan enacted.
Reagan resurrected supply-side economics – the real-world-tested fiscal policy that reductions in tax rates and government spending will invigorate the private sector economy, elevate GDP, resulting, ironically, in additional tax revenues even at the lower rates of taxation. But the principle works best only if reduced tax rates are accompanied by comparable reductions in government spending.
Democrats refused to cut spending, all while belittling Reagan’s efforts as “trickle-down economics.”
However, supply-side economics is so powerful that even though Democrat-controlled House budgets led to record deficits, Reagan’s economic policies resulted in the largest peacetime economic surge in American history. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the “trickle-up poverty” of the current administration’s past, present and proposed “economic recovery” plans.
Typical of great statesmen, Ronald Reagan took no credit for our nation’s economic recovery under his tenure. He was called “The Great Communicator” because of his ability to remind us of our nation’s values, its character, its soul and its confidence, a far cry from the incessant apologizing and the political chicanery that characterize the Obama presidency.
“I wasn’t a great communicator,” President Reagan said in his farewell address, “but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation – from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
And what were those principles?
Back in 1964, shortly after Reagan parted ways with the Democrat Party (“I did not leave the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party left me.”), he delivered a timeless challenge to conservatives entitled “A Time for Choosing”: “You and I are told we must choose between a left or right,” Reagan said, “but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right, There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
In 1977, Reagan outlined a plan for “The New Republican Party,” stating, “The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and what we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations – found through the often bitter testing of pain, or sacrifice and sorrow.”
He continued: “We, the members of the New Republican Party, believe that the preservation and enhancement of the values that strengthen and protect individual freedom, family life, communities and neighborhoods and the liberty of our beloved nation should be at the heart of any legislative or political program presented to the American people.
"Families must continue to be the foundation of our nation. Families – not government programs – are the best way to make sure our children are properly nurtured, our elderly are cared for, our cultural and spiritual heritages are perpetuated, our laws are observed and our values are preserved. … We fear the government may be powerful enough to destroy our families; we know that it is not powerful enough to replace them.
"Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business … frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.
"Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people. … And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America’s spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God’s help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us.”
In his 1981 inaugural address, President Reagan assured the nation: “The economic ills we suffer … will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan appealed to the best in us.
His final words at the 1992 Republican convention reflect that appeal: “And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way. My fondest hope for each one of you – and especially for young people – is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here. May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.”
On the other hand, Barack Hussein Obama appeals to the worst in his constituents – their fears, doubts, dependence on the state, greed and envy, brokenness, pessimism and sense of helplessness. He has twisted JFK’s inaugural appeal to read: “Ask what your country can do for you, not what you can do for your country.”
Ronald Reagan provided a timeless template for the restoration of our nation’s economic and moral prosperity, and a return to First Principles and the Rule of Law. Once again, it is time for action, time to choose.