Monday, January 14, 2008
The New Reagan
Forgive as I take the windy road to get to the point of this post.
Why does there seem to be such a visceral dislike of Mitt Romney? Let's leave aside the personal considerations and consider this: Mitt is the guy who has tried to make himself the candidate of the conservative base, and the base itself is unpopular. IMO, this is down to two things. First is the war, which is a fair rap. Second is the sense of corruption in the party and staleness in conservatism in general. This is a bad rap, but our hands aren't completely clean there either.
So where do we go from here? As I see it, there's only two prominent conservatives who have thought about this and have an answer. The first is Presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who thinks we need a new Reagan and is auditioning for that job. The second is David Frum, who thinks the Reagan frame of mind is now just a matter of nostalgia, and conservatives need to come up with topical answers to _today's_ problems asap. Oddly enough, I think they're both right which is something of an accomplishment since these two are a little bit contradictory.
The first lesson to relearn from the Reagan era is to reject despair. One of Reagan's better lines is from his campaign against Jimmy Carter. "A recession is when a neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. A recovery is when the President loses his." Considering that so many of our problems are the same ones that we saw in the 70s, the good news is that we can use the same solutions: support for the military, support for the nuclear family, low taxes, taking away easy energy revenue from our enemies, etc.
But for many of today's problems, we haven't seen before. These are health care, demographics, energy, and most importantly, the inability to build financial security in today's global economy, even for smart and industrious people. The responsible political class doesn't want to touch these issues, because there at the moment there are no good answers for them. But nonetheless they need to anyway, if only to generate conversation and realistic expectations amongst the citizens, or else the various demagogues and doomsayers will carry the day.