Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Conservative anger and the Reagan legacy

Republican honor Reagan but most of them have failed to study him and his administration. This is true of both elected officials as well as conservative activists.

When we look at the issues that have provoked the grassroots’s anger with DC republicans, we find that they trace their roots back to Reagan era.

I’m not saying that it was RR’s fault. Rather, the problems were apparent in his administration and the journalistic narrative about his electoral victories. That MSM gets big stuff wrong is no surprise. That they do so to the detriment of conservatives is almost a law of nature.

The key problem is that many in the GOP believed their BS.

The dinosaur media could never figure out Reagan. Was he an “amiable dunce” dependent on advisers to govern? A simple-minded actor who needed advisers to feed him his line for the “role of a lifetime”? A dangerous right-winger who had snookered the country with the help of his campaign consultants?

The storyline changed according to the needs of the narrative. What did not change was the disparagement of Reagan’s abilities and principles, and the denial that voters really supported his programs. Equally constant was the emphasis on the importance of Reagan’s advisers to his success.

Reagan did not win because his principles resonated with a center-right nation. No, it was Mike Deaver and his media management.

Too many Republicans came to believe that. Mercenary consultants became central advisers on everything and elected officials came to see voters as easily manipulated fools. (Google “Romney, etch-a-sketch” for the nadir of this arrogance.)

Related to the Deaver fallacy was the Gergen fallacy. The two went hand-in-hand. If elections were decided by image makers and pretty pictures, then it stood to reason that the Republic had to be saved by wise DC insiders who made sure that incompetent rubes did not get elected and then try to carry out their campaign promises.

When conservatives urged that his handlers ‘let Reagan be Reagan’, they were fighting against Gergenism, the central tenet of which is that Republicans, once elected, should break faith with their supporters.

David Gergen may be out to pasture at the Kennedy School and PBS but his legacy lives on in Boehner’s insistence that the GOP rescue amnesty.

Conservatives who remember the Reagan administration may be most in need of a refresher course. Memory is fallible.

Reading David Frisk’s biography of William Rusher, I was reminded again that many conservatives opposed Reagan before the 1980 primaries and spent most of his term complaining about his administration once he went to the White House. Norman Podhoretz thought he was losing the Cold War; Richard Viguerie believed he had sold out to the Establishment.

Pundits have to have something to complain about or else they will not be able to write. Reagan had to govern and governing is a matter of compromise. The best any president can do is balance expedience and principle. Reagan did that better than most and his achievements warm the heart of every true conservative. Yet, it is worth remembering that plenty of vocal right-wingers thought he was failing when he was actually changing the world.

Turns out that being president is a lot like baseball. President’s don’t fail when they cannot implement 70% of their platform; they bat .300 and achieve greatness.

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