June 14, 2009


Republicans Rethinking the Reagan Mystique (JOHN HARWOOD, 6/14/09, NY Times)

“I don’t use him publicly as a reference point,” said Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a Republican who lately has emerged as a potential national party leader. Mr. Daniels instead has urged fellow Republicans to “let go” of Mr. Reagan as a contemporary symbol.

As Mr. Reagan’s White House political director, Mr. Daniels brings credibility to the discussion. A year ago, when he first proposed that Republicans turn the page he drew sharp criticism from Rush Limbaugh, among others. Now, Mr. Daniels observes, “I think it’s spreading.”

That’s not to say Republicans disavow Mr. Reagan’s achievements, which include cutting tax rates, presiding over the successful conclusion of the cold war and, as Mr. Obama noted, boosting morale after a period of national self-doubt. Indeed a recent video made by a conservative group includes Newt Gingrich invoking Mr. Reagan in the terms of old: “His rendezvous with destiny is a reminder that we all have a similar rendezvous,” Mr. Gingrich said, reflecting the admiration for Mr. Reagan that is still in force among the party’s conservative base.

Mr. Daniels, too, hails his former boss for “timeless” principles like suspicion of big government and appreciation of the importance of individual freedom and opportunity. As he tackles issues in Indiana — education policy lately is a hot topic — he says he asks himself whether Mr. Reagan would approve.

But “Reagan always faced forward,” the governor said. “If he were around, he’d tell Republicans to do that now. He’d be the last to want the focus on him.”

The fact is that, presumably because he lived through the Depression, Reagan was fundamentally a Second Way governor who never moved beyond the New Deal. Given the chance to throttle Social Security he saved it instead.

The GOP has to become more openly Thatcherite and Third Way in order to provide the security that peoples in developed nations demand but do so in a manner more consistent with capitalism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2009 8:55 AM
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