The greatest President in the last century, if you are a Conservative, is Ronald Reagan. Because of this, every Republican wanna-be compares himself to the Gipper, and every Republican who wants to be President claims to be a Reagan Republican. The range of candidates making such claims is so broad, that frankly some of them have to be lying to make that claim. The trouble, of course, is that any of the posers would be quick to assure you that his opponent is the liar, while he is the real deal. So, rather than get into a prolonged ad hominem shootout, I think the better course for us would be to discuss the qualities of a true Reagan Republican.
Ronald Reagan made his mark even as he took office, when news broke that Iranian terrorists had released American hostages taken in 1979 when they overran the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. While the terrorists had meant for the gesture to be a sign of contempt against the Carter Administration, the public generally took it as a sign that Iran was far more worried about a Reagan White House than his predecessor, and that Reagan stood for a strong America. That image was his first legacy, and it still stands. Any Republican who would claim the Reagan mantle, must first be strong on the Military and resolute on National Security.
Reagan is also famous for Free Trade. Trade was an effective weapon against Communism, a force which Gorbachev could neither deny nor defeat. It was also Reagan’s trump card for unifying the West and guaranteeing the preeminence of America in her alliances and associations. Reagan was the driving force behind NAFTA, and he was a constant advocate of a world without tarifffs or trade barriers. As much as Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan created and developed the concept of Globalization as we know it. Any Republican who would claim Reagan’s blessing, must also be a thorough champion of Free Trade.
Reagan also stood for Free Speech. Reagan not only encouraged and energized the rhetorical forces of Conservatism, but he also listened and responded to Liberal arguments, either debunking false claims or building respect by accepting valid claims. Reagan properly recognized the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ for the Orwellian lie it was, and worked to dismantle it. Reagan knew and taught that free expression of ideas, concepts, debate was the best and surest means to creating open societies and truly republican democracies. Any Republican who would claim to be like Reagan, must support freedom for expressing opinion, especially in politics.
Reagan also stood for the United States Constitution. It was his constant desire for judges to obey the provisions, and the limits, of the Constitution and to limit government intrusion into the lives and freedom of American citizens to those boundaries explicitly defined in the Constitution. Any Republican who would claim to carry forward Reagan’s legacy, must support constructionist judges and justices.
Those are my first thoughts on what it means to be a Reaganite.