Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ronald Reagan: Citizen Legislator

At the National Review Corner, "A Time for Choosing" is recalled. Bizarrely, Steyn and Long remember Reagan as an opponent of strong, charismatic moral leadership in the presidency. Reagan, of course, is celebrated most amongst modern presidents for strong, charismatic moral leadership. This attack on Obama's pretence to leadership and those who accept it reflects the increasing trend on the right to focus on Reagan's activism in the early '60s. Then, Reagan could most legitimately claim not to be a politician, but merely a citizen outraged with the growth of government and the decline of culture, and spoke more angrily and apocalyptically than any other period. Where his presidency might provide too many lessons in compromise, and too many favourable comparisons with Obama, his first years as a Republican provide a model for powerless, populist opposition.

JeffreyLord, a former Reagan official, also looked back to Reagan in the '60s last week in the American Spectator. Potentially an interesting look at how the NYT reported on Reagan and the conservative movement, and how that compares to modern coverage of the Tea Party, Lord's article swerves towards a rant about an elitist "Establishment". In Lord's understanding, Reagan and the Tea Party are representatives of an American tradition of anti-establishmentarianism which includes George Washington, Sean Hannity and, somehow, Lincoln. This narrative depends on a rigid definition of "Establishment" and a few blindspots: firstly, that the Hollywood political leader and GE spokesman Reagan was somewhat of an established elite himself; secondly the long tradition of leftist anti-Establishment types for which, in the '60s, Reagan was the foe; and thirdly, the fact that Reagan's presidency Established a political dynasty still represented well in the Beltway and the Fourth Estate.

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