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This is a Wednesday Update Archive piece.
Subject: Ronald Reagan's Historical Legacy. . .
(Wednesday, December 29, 2004)
(approx. 2760 words, 5 pp.)
Was Reagan "exceptional"? Probably, but how so?
(Was Reagan. . .)
A Man with a Message from Sinai for a Thousand Years? Not quite? But. . .
We here on this website, uptospeedgoforit.com, truly try to inform and entertain our dear readers. Sometimes we go "over the line," no doubt, with our whimsical satire about various things like those who did or did not recognize "the anti-Christ" and other similar silly subjects, but it is all in good "fun" and usually, indeed almost always, a good time is had by all, even probably the objects of our fun. But on occasion there are truly serious subjects, and ones that cause us all to stop and think and even ask "serious questions" about our nation, the world, history, and even life itself.
Looking back to Reagan and his "passing" earlier this year in 2004
As this year draws to a close, some months have passed now since Ronald Reagan's death (or so-called "passing" to the next life), and now after the hustle and bustle of that event and the final national farewell commemorative services, which were so moving, we can now seriously consider the possibility that maybe Reagan was indeed an "exceptional" historical figure of almost Biblical proportions? Or, is that going too far? We of course suggested somewhat whimsically at the time of his passing that he was the political "Moses" of our nation and ultimately of the world as we wandered in the social, cultural, historical, and especially political wilderness for 40 years (from 1964 to 2004) before we crossed the Jordan into the Millennial Era last summer. Clearly not much good happened in American politics after 1964 except Ronald Reagan? But this is a mere 40 year period. What of the larger picture?
For example, clearly W is not going to set the tone and temperament for the next 1000 years, but as Teddy Roosevelt, he may show an American spirit and resolve which will define our nation in some ways for the 21st century, but it is somewhat too early to tell even on this particular score, of course. But such an accomplishment would be far from Reagan's remarkably pure idealism and almost unprecedented accomplishments of historical proportions. In fact, Reagan may prove to be, with time, a larger than life figure, if we truly do enter a prolonged historical era of individual worth and dignity, limited government, political freedom, traditional virtues, moral integrity, family values, free enterprise, and economic prosperity? This message of Reagan has been (and perhaps should be) seen as almost a message from Mount Sinai! But, who was Ronald Reagan really?
But, Who was Ronald Reagan, really?
My dear mom, assures me that it was 40 years ago exactly (last summer) at that fateful Republican Convention of 1964 that Reagan bust suddenly on to the political scene. Our next-door neighbor, one Mrs. Ward, a "Republican Party operative" (if ever there was one!) called to say that "their people" had managed to get Reagan a spot on TV to give a speech at the Republican Convention, and not to miss it. He was the one man who inspired the true conservatives at that convention, and indeed I recall myself his speaking at various conventions in the years that followed that one. It seems to me he wore a white suit, but I am not sure about that, our dashing conservative white knight riding to save our nation and the world from peril with his message of traditional values, free enterprise, limited government, and freedom from the ideological evils of communism, which so threatened the world in those days.
Though it was many years after 1964 that Ronald Reagan would significantly impact the world or even the national scene, he was from 1964 on pretty much seen as the standard bearer of the true "Republican Party" by those who loved and followed his career. For all their strengths and weaknesses Goldwater, Nixon, Ford, etc., were not in Reagan's league as inspirational figures (nor close?). But rarely do inspirational figures make good practical Party leaders, but Reagan was clearly an exception. Still, except for the faithful few who were truly loyal to him, Reagan would pretty much languish in obscurity until 1980 when the nation simply could not stand any more mediocrity, bigger government, failing detente, national malaise, and the infamous "stag-flation," brought on by years and years of poor economic policy and utterly failed political leadership. "Idealism" looked sweeter and sweeter everyday, and in 1980 Ronald Reagan won an election, which was in fact much closer than we like to remember, against the Democratic establishment which had at that time pretty much controlled American politics since 1932, except for some of the Eisenhower years.
But, Was Ronald Reagan really a great President?
The many eulogies are over, the hours of mourning have passed, and the time for cold, hard, historical assessment is upon us. Was Ronald Reagan really a great President? Maybe, maybe not. Presumably time will determine that more than anything, but he might be or prove to be, and this alone can be said of only a select few Presidents, though we in America (by the blessing of God) have generally had many outstanding Presidents over the years, no doubt. My personal favorite President of the last 60 years is Eisenhower, for a variety of reasons. What a difficult time to be President the 1950s were, and what a wonderful job he did, and those who are really good at something "make it look easy," as the expression goes. He played golf, the world did not blow itself up at the height of the Cold War, and I had a happy, safe, and secure young childhood in those years of 1950s America which are really un-equaled in many ways in our great history. But apart from this writer's own personal predilections, Was Ronald Reagan the greatest President of the last 60 years? Almost certainly? Besides Eisenhower's, his was about the only Presidency which was not marked by major failure and catastrophe, let us not forget, let alone no major accomplishments.
Reagan by way of comparison. . .
In the last 60 years we have only had for American Presidents. . . "the man of lawlessness," some guy who could not even read his own lips (for crying out loud), Mr. Malaise, Mr. Ford not a Lincoln, Mr. Resignation, Mr. Vietnam War and Great Society which proved to be not so "great" (though it had "civil rights," indeed), an assassinated young shining star, Eisenhower, and perhaps everyone's favorite from middle America "Give-em Hell Harry" who primarily left or "gave" Eisenhower a mess in Korea to clean up and resolve. But, I think most would say, Reagan does have some serious contenders in the 20th century, namely, the two Roosevelts and Wilson. I personally do not think anyone will ever rival the likes of Washington, the first Presidents, Lincoln, and Jackson, but as far as Teddy, Franklin, and Woodrow go, I think Mr. Ronald holds his own with all 3 of them, and may with time be seen to surpass all 3 of them, easily, for his larger vision and accomplishments, and for his so going against the tide of his own time in doing all that he did. Reagan also had unbelievable detractors (even "haters" and "vilifiers" some would say would be better words), and he never retaliated in kind, but simply ignored them and stayed on his "optimistic message" for America, and the world for that matter, and his message was considered to be "superficial" at the time, but proved to be "brilliant," all now agree. (Moses and Reagan were both very accomplished and humble men, and this is a rare combination to be sure, whether brilliant and criticized, or otherwise.)
The great idealist and intellectual Woodrow Wilson really tragically misfigured the League of Nations, and Teddy was more of a cowboy than anything, though without question he set the tone and temperament for the American 20th century. FDR presided over America in a time of great financial crisis, and of great social transition in the role and function of government, and he led us through World War II, and nothing should take away from these accomplishments. Still, Is Ronald Reagan really going to prove, with time, to be not just a great President but a great historical figure of significant proportions, if not for a proverbial "thousand years," then for some time to come? Quite possibly?
But, Is Ronald Reagan really going to prove to be a great historical figure?
Is Ronald Reagan really going to prove to be a great historical figure of significant proportions? Quite possibly. Did he "win" the Cold War? That would be, no doubt, an overstatement, but without his practical steadfastness and idealistic vision, there is in my opinion no way we would have seen such a quick and successful conclusion to that "conflict" and indeed the political liberation of the Soviet Union, Russia, and Eastern Europe, and an end to all of the proxy wars and revolutions around the globe. Today there is essentially only one vision of freedom and rights and democracy which has any moral or political credibility. And it is Reagan's vision. In those now gone days, many were advocating the notion of "moral equivalency" and "endless detente" as far as the eye and history could see. And the serious debate among almost all academics was, "Is atheist, materialist Marxist socialism the story of all history?"
We today are so close to his years in office that it is almost impossible to imagine how far we have come in our crossing that Jordan of history and our having left behind once and for all the desert of the atheist, communist, amoral worldview. People by the millions, especially among academics really believed all that nonsense, and if not, they tended to be liberals and did not want to denounce it or oppose it. In those now bygone days, no one in his or her wildest imagination could have dreamed of standing in Berlin and saying, "Tear down this wall!" especially with no malice and not as some personal or military threat but as a challenge for freedom and dignity for all people everywhere! This is almost unheard of in all history by a major leader in such a time of crisis?! But for Reagan such an idealistic (pie-in-the-sky) proclamation was completely consistent with his entire political career, personality, and deeply held beliefs! And there was no animosity in his being on this matter.
At the same time, Ronald Reagan was a complete realist, and realized we could win the arms race, and if we were to have disarmament treaties, which he truly sought in tough negotiation, we should, as a practical matter, "trust but verify"! This seems so obvious today, but it was revolutionary at the time! Ronald Reagan was an unbelievably effective practical man of principle on the worldwide stage of history when two great cultures and civilizations could have drastically interrupted modern life as we have come to know it, or at least so it was held at the time and probably rightly so. The moral theistic worldview of political rights and freedoms faced the amoral atheist worldview of virtually no rights and no freedoms, and Reagan, true to the American Vision or Dream, prevailed. This may well be studied and appreciated for centuries to come, one must assume?
But, Did Ronnie really love Nancy?
They say, when God wishes to bless a man, he gives him a woman to make his life heaven on earth. When He doesn't, He gives a man a woman to make life that other place. It is quite clear which God chose for Ronnie in Nancy, quite clear indeed. Never has there been a more dedicated and loyal and even admiring wife. Nancy, of course, had her detractors, as well, and she was a bit "out there" no doubt, at times, horoscopes and all (we forgive you, Nancy!), but her love for Ronnie was deep and touching, as was his for her. Again, when God wishes to bless a man, he gives him a wonderful, even remarkable, wife, when He doesn't, He doesn't. If ever two persons were made for each other, it would seem to be Ronnie and Nancy, and their love and devotion for each other, even if not their politics, can quite clearly stand as a model and inspiration for "a thousand years" . . . and then some, easily, perhaps. Politics or no politics, few people are in the ball park (or even the city of the ball park), let alone in "the game" of such commitment, love, and romance as Ronnie and Nancy were. But let's not get carried away with this analysis, there is no doubt some couple in the last 4 or 5 thousand years whose relationship is more touching and inspirational than Ronnie's and Nancy's, I am just not sure which romance it might be. That of . . Isaac and Rebecca? Jacob and Rachel? Even Abraham and Sarah, after that, there is not much to speak of even with the first Moses, no less? And, so again, we are back to Reagan as a larger than life figure, quite possibly of Biblical proportions, no less..
Bottom-line here? It is this writer's view that the deep and touching relationship between Ronnie and Nancy is truly a great love story. And they were clearly crazy about each other. We live in a time, of course, of casual sex and throw away relationships, but not Ronnie and Nancy! And Nancy's behavior at the commemorative ceremonies gave those services such a moving solemnity which could have never occurred without her there to be true to the very end! (I personally cried numerous times that week, and I am not ashamed to say so.)
But, hardly "perfection" of course, but "great" nonetheless. . .
Did the tax-avoiders, tax loopholers, sleazy and greedy anti-government folks, radical libertarians, and others tend to ride into DC on Reagan's coattails? No question it would seem, at least according to many reports, but it was they who put the spot on his limited and proper role for government, not Reagan himself. But the truth is we did not really leave the social, cultural, and political wilderness with Reagan, we just had someone (in Reagan) who refused to go there personally! He was "crazy" his critics said, and he was said to live in his "own world"! But if he was essentially right in his higher vision of man, good, God, government, and freedom, this will all be to his credit for the next thousand years or even the next hundred or fifty years or whatever. Does it really matter at this point how long his legacy will stand? I think not. Reagan's view was really pretty simple: Our better days are still ahead of us! And he really believed that, and it was not just a slogan, and he got the nation for the most part (except for the far Left) to really believe that as well! And so here we are, and if that view is true, then it has major historical significance potentially, does it not?
But, What was Ronald Reagan's message, really? Well, look at his "final words"?
Ronald Reagan's final words? Well, his epitaph, carved in the stonewall at his grave site reads "I know in my heart that man is good - that what is right will eventually triumph - and there is purpose and worth to each and every life." I would not, as some, read too much theology into these words. I do not think the optimist Reagan is denying the fall of man, so to speak, but rather calling us to what is good in each of us, made in the image of God, and he is expressing that age-old Christian belief of Lincoln and numerous other politicians and pundits that, by God's sovereign design, grace and will, right in the end will triumph over mere might and that there is "purpose and worth to each and every life" in the big picture of things. I do not re-call any President having such vision, belief, and commitment and so deeply held at that, and so effectively lived out on the world stage and to the benefit of countless millions, but then again there can only be one "Moses" in any given historical epoch?