In short, indeed we should celebrate Reagan for his stellar accomplishments, from election victories to policy wins, but we can’t bask in the triumphs of yesterday to win against the imposing evils of today

Ronald Reagan’s 107th Birthday--Why Are We Still Celebrating?

By —— Bio and Archives--February 7, 2018

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Ronald Reagan’s 107th Birthday--Why Are We Still Celebrating?
After receiving three different emails to sign a card celebrating Ronald Reagan’s 107th Birthday, I asked myself: “Why are we still celebrating the Gipper?” He was a great President, but is the icon turning into a crutch for hiding from the fights of today? The issue is a two-sided question. Indeed, Reagan’s legacy offers a lot for us to rejoice about, but also to ponder and reconsider. He represented the seemingly contradictory conservative change agent in a time when Americans were ready for anything after four years of economic malaise, cultural chaos, and political depression.  His victories for conservatism are considerable, but if he’s an example to follow, there’s so much more to consider besides what he did.


Why Should We Celebrate Reagan Still Today?

The background for President Reagan’s rise, setback, ascent, and legacy go as follows. Ronnie had run briefly in 1968, but party bosses decided “Nixon’s the one.” In Election 1976, Reagan had wrapped up two terms as governor to challenge politically-damaged Gerald Ford. The former House minority leader signed off on Richard Nixon’s pardon, and was punished in the short term, although historians and politicos acknowledge that this first major order spared the country further disarray.
Then just like now, the internal fighting within the GOP focused on how consistently to contend for limited government and individual liberty, both at home and abroad. Liberal Republicans embraced Big Government entitlements, while the more conservative faction wanted to scale back the state and restore constitutional principles.

In 1980, just like Trump did in 2016, Reagan ran against the Republican Establishment and a Democratic Party lurching leftward, including a strong primary challenge from US Senator Ted “Chappaquiddick” Kennedy.  Reagan’s conservatism bothered GOP liberals so much, that one House Rep (the Jeff Flake of his time) John Anderson launched a third-party bid, which only helped Reagan. Reagan’s incredible victory took down the abysmal incumbent Carter, a rudderless administration defined by hand-outs, oil embargoes, Iranian hostages, and a country at home struggling through stagflation. Carter became President only because he ran as a relatively unknown centrist.

Today, President Trump’s victorious election win and first year remind us how outsiders can get in to make American great again. Candidates who listen to the working classes and middle-income voters on their most pressing concerns will win every time. Republicans forgot this lesson for thirty years, focusing more on raising big money and making nice with the press
The once-disdained free market reforms implemented by Reagan led the country through a massive economic contraction. Similar reforms are helping buoy American workers today. Reagan’s version of tax cuts generated five years of unprecedented economic prosperity.

Despite an assassination attempt early in his presidency, Reagan survived, and his standing thrived before the American people. His robust optimism brought a country on the brink of second-tier solace to first-tier resurgence. Like Trump, Reagan loved this country, and did everything to protect it. He projected strength within the first 100 days of his first term. The Ayatollahs released the American embassy hostages within weeks of his election win. As President, he called the recalcitrant air traffic controllers’ bluff, as they had reneged on their promise not to go on strike. Reagan firmly ordered the federal employees: “Get back to work in 48 hours, or you will be summarily terminated.” Unlike his predecessor, the former B-Movie actor was not playing around. Decisive leadership with clear, convincing rhetoric defined Reagan’s Presidency.

And he was not afraid to call out evil to its face. How desperately we need leaders to define and defend moral absolutes in a morally relative world. The Soviet Union was no wayward global competitor, but “The Evil Empire.” Jailed dissidents in Russia celebrated this moral turn in the Cold War. Reagan’s international victory, to supervise and behold the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was Reagan’s single most important win, a product of his communication process and grounded visionary hopes. As early as 1968, he had declared “I want the Berlin Wall to come down.” Academics, intellectuals, and media pundits had all resigned themselves to the lasting influence of Soviet Communism.

Reagan knew better. He knew that the Soviet Union needed to liberalize their economy to survive, but Reagan played for keeps, demanding an end to that sordid regime, including the removal of the hated Berlin Wall. To this day, my most memorable moment happened when I was 8 years old, and I watched the Berlin Wall come down, with jubilant Germans climbing, dancing, and ultimately cutting down that wretched, artificial divide. Reagan’s principled perseverance was inimitable yet worthy of imitation, and for that we should be forever grateful.

Why We Should Think Twice About Reagan

The biggest problem isn’t entirely Reagan per se, but rather how stagnant Reagan-mania has made conservatives. Remembering his accomplishments cannot replace fighting for future conservative victories. During Election 2012, Republican Presidential contenders resorted to praising Reagan and dropping anecdotes about when they shook his hand or talked to him. Obama was a weakened incumbent, but Reaganite nostalgia did not promote a robust, victorious conservatism.

I wouldn’t go so far as columnist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post (“Tear Down This Icon”), but Republicans need to stick to current solutions for today’s issues. On other matters, Reagan supported an assault weapons ban. He strong-armed fiscal hawks early in his administration to vote for more debt-ceiling increases with promises to cut the spending. The spending cuts didn’t happen, the necessary entitlement reforms were abandoned, and our government needs to take national debt seriously. I could spend the next three paragraphs raging about the infamous Simpson-Mazzolli amnesty. I would say that immigration reform failed because there was no wall or funded enforcement. Learn from Reagan’s mistake, President Trump and Republican Congress!

In short, indeed we should celebrate Reagan for his stellar accomplishments, from election victories to policy wins, but we can’t bask in the triumphs of yesterday to win against the imposing evils of today. Sadly, that defines the objectives of too many political operatives today.

“A Time for Choosing”


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Arthur Christopher Schaper -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.



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