The Pointless Veneration of Reagan
Why conservatives and many self-styled libertarians insist on worshiping Ronald Reagan is beyond me. What’s to like? His tripling of the national debt? Promising to end the Departments of Education and Energy, and failing to do so? Selling arms to Iran? Merely being present during the inevitable fall of communism? It seems that the patently rudderless Republican Party is reduced to attributing things they never do (creating and maintaining fiscally-sound small government) to a man who never did them.
Not that they have too many presidential role models to work with. Let’s review: should they choose George W. Bush, whose unfortunately all-to-recent slew of terrible policy and popularity disasters include sending the federal deficit and national debt to spectacular heights? Perhaps George H.W. Bush, whose “Read my lips: no new taxes” pledge was a comical farce? Gerald Ford, who pardoned Nixon? Dare I even mention Nixon himself? It’s absolutely breathtaking to consider that at this point we’ve backtracked all the way to Eisenhower, and fond remembrance of 60 years (or more) past isn’t likely to energize the electorate.
The entire strategy of misty-eyed Reagan retrospective is a guaranteed failure anyway. With every breath wasted on Ronald Reagan and his so-called legacy, the Republican Party demonstrates no forward momentum into 2012 with any real presidential contender. Perhaps this wistful yesteryear obsession with Reagan is simple self-preservation via subconscious denial of today’s political realities; after all, what present-day presumptive Republican candidates are there to be excited about? It may very well be a forlorn hope that Ron Paul will enter as even a reluctant candidate, and with all the Party toes he’s stepped on over the years it’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be a concerted effort to internally sabotage his candidacy. Chris Christie, who makes headlines as a champion big-government fighter in New Jersey has repeatedly stated he won’t run. Paul Ryan, whose claim to fame is purposing a balanced budget by – oh boy! – 2063 is a highly improbable choice. Who’s left? Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee? Can anyone actually believe the best they could come up with in the recent New Hampshire straw poll was Mitt Romney? Is there any Republican less qualified to shrink government?
It is thus that the Republicans and their Tea Party supporters in particular – both so outspokenly dedicated to reducing the size of government – are practically doomed to look in the past and credit a man with actions he never took and purported beliefs he clearly betrayed. To make matters worse, consider that the recent Republican boom in Congress is to be of scarce comfort in short order. While congressional Republicans make noise about reducing the deficit by pathetically microscopic amounts (while refusing to take on Defense or entitlement spending, which currently make about 76% of the budget), election season is right around the corner and there’s no evidence to suggest any remotely significant direction on the legislative front. Attention, GOP: the charade can’t last forever.
But it’s the so-called “Reagan Libertarians” that raise my hackles; it’s a sad commentary that hijacking and bastardizing the libertarian label is so unfortunately in vogue. If there was ever a contradiction of terms, this would be it: the defining of small government as big government. The real Reagan legacy is deficit spending, hugely expanded national debt, foreign intervention, and tax hikes. There is not and cannot be anything libertarian about any of that, period.
I suppose none of this is really surprising: the Republican Party is a contradictory self-defeating desiccated husk of anything it ever even claimed to be. You can’t have small government and the fruitless War on Terror, the patently failed War on Drugs, the morality police, the Patriot Act, pointless federal departments, oil dependence, and a bevy of foreign entanglements. Sadly, the impossible is apparently what Republicans desire – it is, after all, what they consistently vote for.
So perhaps, all things considered, Ronald Reagan is the best representative of the Republican Party that anyone could ever dream of. As long as Republicans insist on what can only be called hypocrisy, perpetuating the myth of Reagan is quite frankly the shoe that fits. But I draw the line – I must draw the line – at any fool who wishes to hitch libertarianism to Reagan’s fraudulence. Unlike the ideologically boxed-in Republicans, Libertarians can offer a future for a nation mired in very real and very present dangers. We need not clamor aboard a sinking ship, and I condemn any professed libertarian who implicitly or explicitly insists that an abandonment of libertarian principles by celebrating the antithesis of libertarianism is the path to our salvation.