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Could Reagan Win Today?

September 15, 2008

We all want Reagan back. He is the ideal of conservative Republicans and even, oddly, many liberal Democrats. In an age of popularity freaks who we call "leaders" and amoralists who we call "pragmatists," where would Reagan fit? If he was the Republican nominee now, how would the big shots in the party view Reagan? We want another Reagan but how many of the bosses of America really want the old Reagan?

He was the Great Communicator, but those of us who remember him remember also that his speeches were directed as much to our minds as to our hearts. He told us why high tax policies brought low tax revenues "If you tax more of something you get less of it." This was profoundly true, of course, but how many Americans would listen to that sort of common sense today? Virtually nothing has changed since 1980. Lower tax rates will bring in more tax dollars. But who seems to care? Obama, when confronted with the proven impact of lower tax rates on capital gains tax revenue, simply slipped back to pre-Reagan "envy as reason" thinking - indeed, Obama seems not even to known, much less cared, if lower capital gains tax rates brought in more money or not. Would the swooning masses on hang on Obama's mindless banter hear Reagan's clear thinking on taxes?

Or consider the surreal zombies who have been convinced by such estimable analysts as Michael Moore, Cynthia McKinney, and Comedy Central that our own government "planned" 9-11. How in the world could Ronald Reagan reach those lost souls? These are people who had the same perverse perspectives as American Stalinists about their own country. Although President Reagan polled very well in many Democrat constituencies, he always lost the Stalinist vote.

In 1980, most Americans still thought. Lots of those Americans had wrong ideas or had different hopes than Reagan (e.g. Russia would be nice), but even these opponents of Reagan had real ideas. People who think and people who have ideas can be persuaded. Those sorts of people are complex and independent souls. Moreover, they not only thought but listened. And when they listened, they listened to words. How many Americans today see only sound bites, watch only images, react emotionally and not cerebrally to news and events? It would be heartening to hope that Ronald Reagan could bring these people to their senses, but many of these citizens have no wish to see reality clearly. Their minds dwell in a netherworld in which the wells are filled with venom and their daily bread is bitterness. Reagan did bring hope to America, but most of America genuinely wanted hope. How many hate-filled Leftists today do not even want hope? How many have had their fill of hope and luxuriate instead in the muck of despair, lashing out at anyone like Reagan who would bring sunshine to their lives?

Reagan spoke of God. Now, the God he spoke about was a general, interfaith and inter-denominational God of Jews and of Christians (and, I would suppose, the God of Sikhs and Bahai and Zoroastrians and even Allah too.) This God of mankind was very important to Reagan, even if he kept the details of his religious life pretty private. But even this big tent God horrifies many Americans nowadays. Would this be the same "God" who created the world? Right there Reagan would cross swords with the pseudo-science of Darwinists whose canonized science of natural selection is beyond the right of reason to challenge. Would this also be the same deity who prescribed all sorts of politically incorrect rules of personal behavior? Surely Reagan was not saying that God could trump our personal whims?

How would the mainstream media treat Reagan if he lived today and were the Republican nominee? Has this organ of Leftism become more civil in the last twenty-eight years? Is its reporting more honest or complete? Would his message reach America unfiltered now? Think how the mainstream media treats McCain, who has swung hard at the conservative base, now that he is the Republican nominee. Now think how the mainstream media would treat a man whose Eleventh Commandment was "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." Take the unfair treatment that McCain gets and multiply it by a million - that would be the press coverage of Reagan in most of the media.

What about Republicans who have treated the public treasury like a private piggy bank? How would they feel about a Reagan who thought that government was more the problem than the solution? Yes, Reagan spent too much to gain necessary Democrat votes, but Reagan did not, himself, favor government jokes like No Child Left Behind and his tolerance of pork was not because he supported the gravy train but because he needed to defeat the Soviets. Men like Ted Stevens just spend to get rich and grab power. These Republicans would not like Reagan much.

We all pine for Reagan, but that is because many of us have forgotten that he was a tough man who stood squarely for vital ideas. I am afraid that many of us, including many Republicans, are too selfish and too soft for that. Would Reagan win today? The pat answer is a resounding "Yes!" but the truth may be very different: He always stood for us, but too many of us have stopped standing for him.

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Copyright ©2008 Bruce Walker

Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.