Saturday, March 06, 2010

Would Reagan Vote for Palin?

Would Reagan Vote for Palin? "Yes", says Steven Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan 1964-1980 and 1980-1989.
"Reagan typically described conservatism in populist terms rather than formal ones. In his 'Time for Choosing' speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign, he sounded almost exactly like Glenn Beck does today. 'This is the issue of this election,' Reagan warned: 'Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.'

"This populist undercurrent is why I am certain that Reagan would have been an enthusiastic supporter of the tea party movement."
. . .
"And who might be able to tap into the potent brew of the tea party? Right now the leading candidate is undoubtedly Palin, whom Reagan would probably have cheered on and surely would have had no problem voting for should she secure the GOP presidential nomination. Like Reagan, she has enormous charisma and a populist style. At her best, such as on the 'Tonight' show last week, she shares his self-assurance and ease in front of a crowd. Like Reagan, she hails from outside the political establishment and does not crave the approval of the elite; rather, she seems to thrive on their disapproval."
Further Hayward says that Palin is a lot like Reagan.
"Like Reagan, Palin consciously speaks in ways appealing more to principle than to party. And like Reagan, she divides people across the political spectrum. Her 'death panels' broadside against Obama may have seemed like cheap demagoguery, but it resembled Reagan's attack against the Panama Canal treaties in 1978: 'We built it, we paid for it, it's ours, and we're keeping it!'

"Virtually all the criticisms of Palin -- calling her an anti-intellectual lightweight who can't name a magazine she reads or a founding father she admires -- were lobbed at Reagan before and during his time in the White House, and the critics hailed from both sides of the aisle. The GOP establishment was very uncomfortable with Reagan, even after he'd won two presidential elections in landslides -- and who can forget Clark Clifford's 'amiable dunce' label?

"Reagan would probably recognize, and approve of, these aspects of Palin's political persona. He knew the power of being an outsider and how it plays well with the people even if it gets bad reviews with the East Coast news media."
Still Hayward thinks that, except on energy, Palin does not yet have the "crispness and rhetorical force of Reagan's formulas" or "a set of signature issues that can carry her particular stamp".

Hayward's Washington Post article gives an interesting, thoughtful evaluation that goes beyond candidate issues. Consider this governance insight:
"Palin and the tea partiers might do themselves the most good, however, if they considered Reagan's failures and shortcomings, and his reflections about them, rather than his successes. Would-be GOP presidential contenders love invoking 'tear down this wall' and 'there you go again,' but they should also ask themselves: Why didn't the Reagan revolution succeed in erecting lasting barriers to the government gigantism we are seeing today? Reagan, though usually remembered as a sunny optimist, also sounded a more ominous note: 'Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction,' he said in a 1967 speech. 'It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.'

"Frustrated with his inability to control a sprawling government and anticipating a climate such as today's, late in his second presidential term Reagan began arguing for a package of five constitutional amendments that he called his 'Economic Bill of Rights.' (Once again he borrowed from FDR, who used the same label for a very different set of ideas in 1944.) Reagan's package included two familiar standbys he'd requested in nearly every State of the Union address he delivered: a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto. But he added three more proposals: a federal spending limit (revived a few days ago by Republican Reps. Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling), a 'supermajority' vote requirement for Congress to raise taxes, and a prohibition on wage and price controls."

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