Amazingly and audaciously, the mainstream media and liberal pundocracy has created a narrative that President Obama’s newly found centrism is molded in the inspirational optimism of President Reagan. This narrative seems confusing, when many liberals excoriate Reagan’s economic policy as the grim reaper of capitalism coming to instill all the inequities of the free market.
Reagan, like the Tea Party, believed heavily in the primacy of the individual over the government and limited self-government constrained by the Constitution.
Reagan, in his “A Time for Choosing” speech, echoed these sentiments by saying, “A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”
On the flipside, President Obama in his State of the Union Address enunciated the greater need for “investment” (i.e. government spending and subsidies) wrapped in the rhetorical trappings of American exceptionalism and greatness. This deceptive rhetoric attempted to mask the policy that undergirded Obama’s State of the Union address which called for more dubious government subsidies for green energy and an increase in spending for high-speed rail boondoggles. If American citizens were groping and longing for high-speed rail, wouldn’t it be flourishing by now after nearly 30 years since the French launched their Paris-Lyon TGV line?
If there is no demand for these industries, how else can government make them appealing, but by way of force, coercion or wasteful subsidizing hoping to create a market for these currently unwanted and inefficient products?
Are we to forget the GM bailout, Dodd-Frank financial regulation and an intrusive government intervention into our healthcare system? Do President Obama’s policies even close to matching his own rhetoric in the State of the Union, let alone Reagan’s?
These pontificators may be well-intentioned, but it is more than condescending to attempt to link President Obama with the former President merely based on oratorical flourishes and Reaganesque-style optimism. Their ideas on the proper function and role of the government stand in stark contrast.
As AEI’s Steven Hayward insightfully notes, Reagan believed that modern liberalism unequivocally left him.
Reagan’s invocation of Paine, as well as his quotation of John Winthrop’s “City upon a Hill” sermon, expresses the core of his optimism and belief in the dynamism of American society, a dynamism that can have unconservative effects. But he explained his use of Paine in conservative terms way back in his 1965 autobiography, Where’s the Rest of Me? “The classic liberal,” Reagan wrote, “used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a longtime refuge of the liberals: ‘Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible.'”
Maybe It is time for President Obama to return to some of Founder’s writings in order to rediscover his inner centrism. He can begin with Thomas Paine.