President Ronald Reagan has finally passed away after years of suffering the indignities of Alzheimer’s.
At the time, I didn’t appreciate him so much. As a perhaps somewhat strident young libertarian, I objected to him largely for exactly the opposite reasons as his more numerous and vocal liberal opponents. He did NOT in fact slash or really even trim the federal budget generally or welfare programs. (Bill Clinton, of all people, would get more credit for that one.) I enjoyed the pure blind fury that his mere existence gave many of his opponents, but I never voted for him.
You have to give him some credit for his early tax cut, though. “Tax cut” might be somewhat the wrong phrase, in that it absolutely generated MORE tax money by stimulating economic growth. It would be more apt to describe it as a modest “tax reform” largely by lowering the ridiculously high upper tax brackets. What moron thought that a 90% tax bracket was either moral or practical?
In the years since his retirement, though, his greatest value has shown through- something surpassing particular legislative achievements and shortfalls.
I’ve come to see him as something of a secular spiritual leader. He wasn’t going on about God all the time, or such foolishness- Jimmy Carter would have come closer to that. There was a bigger sense of vision, though. He really MEANT that “morning in America” stuff.
Reagan felt this optimism in his soul, and offered it to us all. It didn’t entirely make up for all the budget deficits and such what, but then maybe it did. The system pretty strongly tends to roll along no matter what a couple of monkeys at the top think they’re going to reform. He couldn’t do everything.
He did, however, keep a steady hand on the wheel during the demise of the Soviet Union. Many critics absolutely screamed blue bloody murder at the time over his assured insistence that we were the good guys, and the Soviet government were the bad guys. But a belief in our own goodness is necessary to our ability to think and act rightly: the Soviet Union was absolutely an “evil empire.”
Between the evil moral relativists and the weaklings fearful of the wounded Russian bear lashing out, there was a great deal of pressure for appeasement, capitulation and even financial support from America for the dying empire. Reagan had the good judgment mostly simply not to prop the evil bastards up.
He was not belligerent, nor did he in fact make any move to promote some military conflict with the Soviets, as he was so constantly and ridiculously accused of. He simply made it clear that we were standing our ground, perfectly willing and able to spend the money and defend ourselves.
Reagan shouldn’t get credit for ending the Soviet empire. That’s too much. The Soviet Union collapsed under it’s own weight eventually because communism doesn’t work. Praise be, though, that as that time came we had a president with the good sense not to cower or prop them up for another ten years with OUR wealth.
From the top, Reagan masterfully projected his vision that America is good and strong and moral- the shining city on the hill. Introspection and self-doubt are important things- in moderation- but you can’t live on that stuff.
Nor should we have to. America IS the shining city on the hill.