By Andrew Canfield, Contributor to US Daily Review.
Michael Reagan, conservative talk show host and adopted son of the fortieth president, recently made an eye-opening statement when elaborating on how his father would be treated by today’s Republican Party. He stated: “If you look at my father and you just knew him as governor — raised taxes, signed an abortion bill, no-fault divorce, and a few other things — today, the argument against him would come from the right, not from the left. He would have trouble getting his own nomination, but yet he ended up being the greatest president in our lifetimes.”
Few could legitimately question the conservative bona fides of Ronald Reagan. Though the results of his eight years can be parsed and fairly dissected, the degree to which his rhetoric moved the needle on free markets cannot be denied. In fact, the disarray today’s GOP and conservative movement find itself in can be corrected by leaving aside folklore and taking an unbiased look at his time in office.
Attempting to keep up with the weekly ‘Republican savior’ has become a challenging task, giving the appearance of a party struggling with ‘candidate ADD’. This indecisiveness makes now an excellent time to revive what served as thoughtful conservatism during the Reagan decade.
‘We are looking for the next Reagan,’ movement conservatives never fail to point out. But when asked to clarify this vaguely defined longing, the discussion quickly morphs into concerns detached from reality. Handwringing over a nonexistent threat of Sharia Law in America and questioning the current president’s citizenship not only repels moderates, but it stands opposed to the forward-looking Republicanism that helped Reagan sweep 49 states. Nonstop Obama bashing may excite the base, but fair minded independents are lost in the process.
Taking an objective look at Reagan’s record actually undermines the caricature many on the right have painted. After all, he was the one pulled troops out of Lebanon and favored both arms control and nuclear disarmament. The misconception of Reagan as a warmonger and unwilling to engage in principled compromise has led to Republicans taking positions anathema to sound governance. Although it is a frequent occurrence on the right today, he would never have confused strong support for the military with a reckless use of it resources. Prudent conservatives are not isolationists, but they do understand the wisdom of a strong yet restrained foreign policy mindful of preserving America’s prestige abroad.
Looking back on Reagan’s administration would also reveal a president who cherished his faith but was unwilling to wear it on his sleeve. The recruitment of government to fight a “culture war” has been one of the key motivators in driving moderates and young people away from today’s Republican Party. Until party leaders grasp this, an entire generation of potential voters will be unwilling to affiliate with the label.
Contrasting today’s divisive tactics with Reagan’s laid back demeanor and sense of humor—even as an Evil Empire was being stared down -makes it likely his son’s assessment was accurate. Unfortunately, it now appears contempt for a president has become the only glue holding the modern conservative movement together. This form of fear-based politics has produced a wing of the Republican Party content with ginning up anxiety toward exaggerated bogeyman.
Sadly, those driven by personal disdain toward Barack Obama would write off a candidate in the mold of Reagan as insufficiently angry, opting instead for bluster over substance. A Republican Party built around fear will simply guarantee the incumbent president’s re-election, ensuring four more years of economic stagnation and metastasizing government overreach. This is surely not what the fortieth president would have wanted.
Andrew Canfield is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and a resident of Bossier City, Louisiana. He is the community relations director at a property management company and enjoys writing for the local newspaper and fitness web sites in his spare time.
Andrew is a fan of outdoor activities, and loves running and cycling in his spare time. His favorite economic author is F.A. Hayek, and he considers himself a libertarian Republican.