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Greater than Reagan

It seems like every four years Republican hopefuls jump into what I will coin “Reagan mode” – an attempt to emulate the man that led this nation from the grime of the 70’s and into the resurgence of the American economy, hope, and spirit.  These imposters that invoke Reagan into their speeches or self-characterizations are patronizing the name and what it stands for.  “Reagan” may be quick to their lips, but he’s far from their heart.  They summon his memory, not for the principles for which he stood, but for the victories he carried.  Their actions are centered on political gains, not conservative American interests. 

The tactic of “Reagan mode” is consistently implemented for one simple reason – because we so desire another Reagan.  It is almost impossible for anyone to find any sort of success in the GOP presidential primary without first being compared to Reagan.  He has become the standard by which all others are judged and, of course, fall short.  The problem is that Reagan isn’t out there and he cannot save this nation from our current state.  I propose that we not seek Reagan, but something greater than Reagan. 

There are a number of things that made “Ronnie” great, but for me his greatest attribute was his fidelity to principle.  Reagan’s retractors would often call out the repetition of his statements he made 20+ years earlier in current speeches.  The conclusion was that he was simplistic and lacked innovation.  I prefer to view this as congruent and principled.  What was true in 1964 was true in 1984, not because every element was equivalent, but because the foundation was unchanged.  These foundational principles were not made by Reagan – they made Reagan.

And in all of that time I won a nickname, “The Great Communicator.” But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: it was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the “Reagan Revolution.” Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense. – Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address 1989

Why do conservatives truly love Reagan?  It wasn’t because he was a winner, because he was courageous, or because he was the “Great Communicator”; though we may have appreciated those aspects we loved him because he was consistently right.  We expect our leaders to be right because we are their followers.  Reagan was right because he took simple truths and used them as his compass through the muck of the political world.  When he went to his first World Economic Summit he was largely ignored.  He proposed the “simplistic” idea of cutting taxes and regulation so that businesses and citizens would spend more revenue.  Two years later when he returned to the economic summit everyone looked to him and “the American Miracle” for answers for their economic problems. 

The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.” – Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address 1989

Today we stand in the wake of what seems to be an insurmountable webbing of chaos and failure.  Our challenges are complex, but our solutions are simple.  The challenge is to get beyond finding a person, a Reagan, to lead us and to instead lay the foundation for a leader to rise.  In 1978, when Ford was still in office, it wasn’t Reagan who spurred this nation to challenge the waning ideologies of Washington – it was the American people who pushed Reagan into challenging Ford.  They weren’t looking for a person; it’s just that a person was necessary to represent the growing sentiment.  As great as Ronnie was, the movement was greater.  That is how it has always been. 

Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Reagan were mere mortals in the presence of an immortal truth: that freedom and equality are righteous at every level.  Government leaders don’t cast that yoke upon the people; the people must cast that yoke upon the government and their leaders.  As great as Ronnie was, the people were still greater. 

I’ve had my share of victories in the Congress, but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn’t win for me. They never saw my troops; they never saw Reagan’s regiments, the American people. You won every battle with every call you made and letter you wrote demanding action. Well, action is still needed.  -– Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address 1989

This is the traditional time for individuals to start throwing their names in the hat of presidential hopefuls.  Instead of trying to find the Reagan in those individuals we should focus on the things that were greater than Reagan – the founding principles and the spirt of the American people.  If this conservative grass roots movement continues to swell in this fertile soil, a flower blossom among us – perhaps one greater than Reagan.


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  • Steve Dennis February 12, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    Great post RHM!
    “Their actions are centered on political gains, not conservative American interests.”
    That line sums it all up, when it is time for the campaigns to begin the Republicans invoke the name of Reagan, but it seems they do so for political gain and not because they truly believe the message. While people may have criticized Reagan for repeating the same ideals over 20 years I think that it is a positive that he never changed his message because it shows us that he had a set of ideals which he never changed, and that is so different from the politicians of today.
    Steve Dennis recently posted..Republicans to introduce legislation which would stop the EPA from implementing cap and tradeMy Profile

    • RightHandMan
      RightHandMan February 12, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      I’m with ya Steve. Thanks for the comment.

  • Matt February 12, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    Man, I think this is the best post I read all week. It is that good.

    Reagan was right, but the ideas needed a man to properly convey them.

    • RightHandMan
      RightHandMan February 12, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      Wow…Thanks. I plan on showing this comment to my wife and saying, “See, someone likes me!”

  • John Carey February 12, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Simply outstanding RHM. We need to look beyond the man and focus on the principles that are the foundation this great nation. We need to understand that the solutions to our complex problems are basic truths; that the individual is key and the solutions are within each of us. Reagan knew this and he carried it with him. He had a firm grasp on the notion that people were the solution and government was the problem. We should not be looking for someone like Reagan the man, we should be looking for someone who understands and embraces the principles that Reagan knew to be key to our nation’s success.

    • RightHandMan
      RightHandMan February 12, 2011 at 9:48 PM

      Indeed. Reagan believed in the people and our founding principles…everything else is just extracirrucular.

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