“America Is Too Great For Small Dreams.”
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the first – and last – modern conservative President of the United States. That fact alone accounts for the divergent recountings of his terms as leader of the free world. Members of the Political Left still revile Reagan, while simultaneously dismissing the accomplishments of his terms in office as if the major changes he envisioned and championed would have transpired without his leadership.
During Reagan’s tenure, those from the Left celebrated the balance of power and proclaimed the moral equivalence of the United States and the Soviet Union, content to live in a world divided into camps of the slave and the free. And few dared dream that this often precarious and edgy state of affairs could end in the span of their lives. But together with a band of courageous allies and inspired aides, Reagan adopted policies that eventually brought down the Iron Curtain, making the world both safer and freer than anyone could have hoped when the perilous decade of the 1980’s began. In the process, Reagan demonstrated irrefutably that centralized power and bureaucratic planning cannot be harnessed to serve the public good. And the Left cannot forgive Reagan for that – much less acknowledging or congratulating his victory.
But that was merely the last and most significant of Reagan’s battles with the Left, and understanding his past is key to deciphering the reasons for his later successes. Reagan survived and won an early variant of today’s culture war, when he opposed the influence of pro-Communist members of his Hollywood community. From that conflict, Ronald Reagan discerned the real outlines of the fight ahead, becoming familiar with the opponents he would face down, and coming to his own deeper recognition of the power of freedom.
Political commentators today frequently remark that conservatives have been lost since Reagan’s departure from the presidency, and Republican presidential candidates in the intervening 12 years have struggled over claims to the “Reagan mantle.” Such comments and squabbles miss the central point. Reagan’s political genius arose not from his congenial personality, or from his acting training, or from his leadership skills, but rather from the strength and truth of his ideas. Longing for “another Reagan” – or waiting for such a leader to arrive – are vain wishes, which actually dishonor the memory of our beloved conservative mentor. The profound ideas that guided Reagan grew from his faith in the abilities of free people and his belief that our Constitution’s model government of ordered liberties and federally distributed powers was the best on earth.
In domestic policies, Reagan introduced a program to bring our nation back into closer conformance with the Constitution’s mandates. He called this program New Federalism. But these policies have been overturned since Reagan’s departure from office.
We do not need another Ronald Reagan as a leader, because his ideals and principles may chart America’s course for the new century – if we will but follow them still. If our country returns to the path of New Federalism that Reagan envisioned for our future, with God’s guidance and blessings we can yet become that “shining city on a hill” among the powers of the earth, that Ronald Reagan reminded us the United States could be.
Reagan 2020 is dedicated to President Reagan’s vision for a New Republican Party and New Federalism.
“A Primer on the New Federalism” by Burton Yale Pines