What if Ronald Reagan suddenly rose from the dead and walked among us? Let’s say that for the purpose of this thought experience that he is as he was when he was first elected President, but with all the memories he had before his sickness robbed him of them.
The first thing he would be would to be bemused at how much his name was being bandied about, nearly twenty years after he left office. He was by nature a modest man, so he would certainly raise an eyebrow and perhaps give his wry smile at all of the Republican candidates claiming to be him.
It’s sort of like that scene from Spartacus.
“I’m Ronald Reagan!” proclaims Rudi Giuliani.
“No, I’m Reagan!” insists Mitt Romney.
“I’m Reagan!” chimes in Huckabee.
“I’m Reagan!” snarls McCain and then gives that glare as if to say, and you better not argue.
Reagan, newly risen, would have said, “No, guys, I’m Reagan for if I am not, who is? And you really should run under your own name so as not to confuse the voters.”
He would then learn of the kerfluffle that happened when Newt Gingrich said, on a national talk show, that the “Age of Reagan is over.” Of course this is the sort of thing Gingrich likes to do. Say something seemingly provocative and then get a week of media time explaining what he meant. Which is what happened in this case, when conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh roared that it was not so. Gingrich gently explained that he meant that the solutions offered by Reagan in 1980 were not relevant in 2008, that if he were still among us he would certainly offer up to date solutions to contemporary problems (such as those being offered by Newt Gingrich, perhaps.)
So now I’m an ideology, Reagan would think. And here I thought I was an actor who discovered he had some clear ideas about how to help the country.
If the behavior of Republicans were to bemuse Reagan, the Democrats would absolutely send him around the bend. It all started when Senator Barack Obama actually had some nice things to say about Reagan. “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way Richard Nixon did not and a way that Bill Clinton did not.” Then Obama proceeded to compare himself to Reagan.
Reagan would shake his head and say, “No, you are certainly not me.”
The response of the Democrat left was explosive. The reaction on the far left blogs and on the campaign trail made one think that a group of Democrats were going to hold an auto de fe with Obama as the heretic of honor. It culminated in a debate in South Carolina which turned into a slap fight between Hillary Clinton and Obama. Clinton accused Obama of not only liking Reagan but his ideas as well. Obama denied this and then Obama and Clinton got into an argument over who had fought against Reagan’s ideas the most.
Reagan would shake his head again and say, “There they go again.”
So what would Reagan make of the modern age and the state of play in politics? One would suspect that on the whole he would like George W. Bush, better in fact than he did his dad. Tax cuts? Good. War on Terror? Very good. Loved the speech on the ruins of Ground Zero. Love even more how he’s running rings around the appeasers in Congress. Spending? Not so good. True, Reagan himself had some problems along those lines, but he had to deal with Democrats in Congress. Bush should have done a lot better with six years of a Republican Congress.
It’s all a fantasy, of course. Ronald Reagan has been with the ages for nearly four years and is not coming back. But doesn’t the reader wish that, if only for a season, Reagan could return to lend a bit of clarity and a little humor to the political campaign. The speech he might give at the Republican convention, giving maledictions to the terrorists, tweaking the Democrats, would be something that would be remembered as long as there is an American Republic.