This video demonstrates what bad shape the Republican Party is in. When a man who has been dead for 5 years, and left office in 1989, is your best spokesman for opposing nationalized health care, you know you have problems. Even more amazing, is the fact that he gave this speech in 1961. 48 years later, it is still far and away better than anything current politicians are saying.
No politician was better at selling conservative ideas than Ronald Reagan. He preached the gospel for years before ascending to power. Most importantly, he actually believed in what he was selling. He not only told you what he believed, but why he believed it, and why it was important for Americans to embrace it. He was great at using historical references and personal antidotes to make his point. He didn’t rebrand liberty and personal freedom to fit his own agenda, or to use as a gimmick in an election campaign (see compassionate conservatism).
He took the ideas seriously, but not himself. He was willing to negotiate and compromise, but only if it moved the ball closer to where he wanted to go. He was passionate, determined and cheerful in his battle with statism. Happiness is the best revenge. I think it was understood that he had uncompromising principles, yet was reasonable at the same time. Most people had the feeling he was in it for his country and not himself. Even when he failed to turn conservative ideas into policy, there was a feeling that he didn’t fail for lack of trying. The poverty he grew up in, combined with his unique back ground, was a sharp contrast from the typical ladder climbing politician.
I often describe myself as a Conservative with libertarian leanings. It’s the quickest way to get across where I stand, without going into some detailed screed about every policy issue imaginable. I certainly have idiosyncratic beliefs on certain things, and my passion for certain issues exceed others.
I can count on 2 hands the number of politicians at the national level I respect. I believe America to be in decline. A slow one, but a decline nonetheless. The size and scope of the federal government, in concert with the caliber of people that serve there, assures me that meaningful, tangible reform is a pipe dream. Power is too entrenched, and out of the reach of the hoi polloi to be dealt with effectively. This is to say nothing of cultural changes I find to be destructive, or challenges America faces from the rest of the world in global competition, military threats and rising powers. As time goes on, I get less and less interested in the jockeying of politics from one out of touch, wrong headed party to the other. I realize, I am for the most part, on the losing side.
I know it is said that too many people on the Right are fixated with Ronald Reagan. I guess I could be accused of that myself. He certainly wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes as Governor and President. He was a flawed man like everyone else. He was a politician who had to make campaign promises that he couldn’t keep, and do his share of pandering. (Ironically, this is one of the reasons he stands out so much. He played the compromised, back scratching, high stakes game of politics more ethically than most.)
With all of that said, Ronald Reagan has come closest to representing my beliefs in the highest office in the land. He was one of a kind and that’s why he is beloved. If a candidate comes along that can articulate and sell principled, conservative ideas with conviction, and passion, in a graceful, witty, and cheerful way, immune from the effects of bullying from the left, I’ll stop talking about Ronald Reagan and perhaps feel a little (and only a little) more optimistic for this country.
I’m not holding my breath.