Opinion: What Liberals Don't Get about Reagan (or Chris Christie)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 01:18 PM

What's the deal with Ronald Reagan? If it's the election season, and there's a Republican running for an office, any office ranging from dog-catcher to U.S. president, you can be sure that Ronald Reagan will have a prominent role in their campaign. Though he's been dead for seven years now, Reagan looms large over the Right side of the political aisle.

I love it and hope conservative attempts to live up to Reagan's legacy don't ever end. I like having a political hero in Ronald Reagan., who wasn't perfect but he was close enough.

Like most conservatives, I have a permanent soft spot for Ronald Reagan. It's not just that the personal is political, although Reagan's harsh talk to the Soviet Union and his pivotal role in bringing down the evil empire does certainly tug at my heart-strings, it's that he lived up to so many principles that conservatives seem to only expect to hear "in theory" these days.

To liberals, a president like George W. Bush was a Rightwingy rightwinger. For conservatives W. was... a good man who was the best of the available choices and yet not quite one of us. His spending was sky-high, he introduced a huge entitlement program in the form of medicare prescription drugs and while he talked a big game, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought with an eye on winning hearts and minds instead of just, well, winning.

Reagan, though, "sought - and won - more spending cuts than any other modern president", did whatever he had to do to stop the Soviet Union in its tracks and brought a hope to a broken America that current hope-change proclaimers could only imagine.

Democrats don't get it, this Reagan love, and I don't blame them.

Clinton was a political genius but was free of weighty principles, Carter was an all-around disaster and Kennedy/Johnson were so long ago that Kennedy is all mystique and Johnson is all Vietnam war. And then there's Obama. He had the potential to be the Left's Reagan but he is a man who doesn't know who he is, who sought an office for which he was not ready, won it but now flounders and is lost.

He'll be anyone we want him to be but that just means he's no one at all. He ran on ending the Iraq war on the day he took office (seeming to really believe that was possible), closing Guantanamo, ending the Bush tax cuts, and elevating America's standing in the world. He's done none of these things all the while growing the deficit and watching from the golf course as our unemployment numbers grow. The Liberal Reagan he is not.

Unfortunately for conservatives, there's not a Reagan in our current presidential field either. Don't get me wrong, they're all better than president Obama, but none of them live up to the man that was Reagan and certainly not to the legend of his presidency.

That's why it seems conservatives won't cease their search and why the Chris Christie rumors persist despite his seemingly heartfelt attempts to shut them down. The fact that Christie is giving a speech at the Ronald Reagan library today, and that Nancy Reagan is his fan, only perpetuate the rumors that maybe we might have someone Reagan-esque this time around. I wouldn't count on it - though crazier things have happened. Because if there's one thing Chris Christie seems to have in common with Ronald Reagan is that they are men who say what they mean and mean what they say.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.


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Comments [14]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey


I am old enough to have voted in the '80 election. Carter, who was a better leader than folks like to remember, got blasted for the stagflation then rampant. I worked for Anderson. If I had it to do again, I would work and vote for Carter because Reagan changed our country for the worse in so many ways.

Reagan, for me, is an example of ''All hat, no cattle". An actor who could make you FEEL exactly what he wanted you to FEEL - which is a nice way of saying he could lie to your face. Bush II is an even bigger example of 'all hat, no cattle' having added $6T to the public debt during his eight years.

Reagan didn't win the Cold War...The Soviets involvement in Afghanistan did that. Reagan DID step up defense spending (via more borrowing) which the Soviets foolishly attempted to match. Silly them.

If Conservatives would actually govern that way, I might have respect for them. However, there hasn't been one that ran and ruled as a conservative. From this point on I'll never vote for a candidate that says 'government is too big'. It just proves to me that they won't know what they are doing once they get in.

Stop the mythology.

Oct. 05 2011 07:08 PM
Amy K from NYC

I am wary of putting any past president on a pedestal, Democrat or Republican. Democrats long for the Clinton era, Conservatives for the Reagan era. How about we just find somone to lead us through THIS era without applying values of the past that no longer apply to the world the way it is today? Everyone needs to get their heads out of the previous decades and start thinking about who can lead us during this decade. And that applies to both parties. I am tired of hearing about both the yearning for the Clinton era and the yearning for the Reagan era. Both are over, world is very different, and if you keep applying the values of past presidents to a candidate today, we risk losing even more than we already have. I also find it insulting when ANY candidate, Dem or Rep, compares themselves to a former great leader. Be your own leader and don't have delusions of grandeur that you are an FDR, Kennedy, Reagan, etc. You aren't and you never will be.

Sep. 30 2011 03:38 PM

Although I agree that Christie is a man who is defined by "straight talk" etc., and up until very recently believed he wouldn't run, I'm not so sure now. Up until the Reagan library speech I assumed the articles suggesting he might run were wishful thinking from his supporters, but now the articles (and the softening of Christie's denials of running -- see the reports yesterday that at the Jindal event he didn't respond to the questions of possibly running at all) seem to suggest to me at least that he may really be about to get into this race, which is exciting.

And as an aside, I must say that even with all the steretypes about comments in the blogosphere, I still find it disappointing to read these angry responses. JK calls you out of your mind, Torus34 calls you immature, and the others are equally angry. I for one am grateful for political posts like these regardless of whether I agree with them, as I enjoy thinking through the political issues and in this case interpreting the recent interest in a Christie run. Thanks for doing it Karol, I always appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Sep. 30 2011 02:22 PM
Dennis Condon from Brooklyn

What nostalgic conservatives don't understand about reality. Do yourself a favor and reread your post. Your description of George Bush was very pleasant. You failed to even mention that he over saw and aided in our economy's collapse all the while with a mostly conservative congress. The current candidates for the GOP are all awful which is why most you want someone who's not even in the running. The problem isn' that you love Ronald Reagan its that you conveniently see things in right wing tunnel vision without ever considering what actually happened. Reagan ran huge deficits and he raised taxes. Reagan was an average president at best. Your post failed to even explain why liberals don't get Reagan. Obama 2012! He will win because he's a strong leader who's not an actor and attempts to address problems with realistic solutions that considers all Americans and not just one ideology. That may be considered a weakness in your book but as a country the President is supposed to look out for all our interests. He's not perfect but he's better than anything the rightwing has seen in 20 years and that scares you.

Sep. 29 2011 10:09 AM


You seem to prefer the first name, so I'll be bold and use it.

First, thank you very much for responding.

I agree that it's possible to rank Presidents, given some sort of rational criteria. I also would not rank President Ford among the very greatest ever to hold the office. As you nicely pointed out, President Gerald Ford was not idle during his partial term. Whilst there were no 'major' initiatives, I would like to think that it was intentional -- by design rather than by a lack of ability.

He was, as you know, one of our more intelligent presidents, jokes about tripping over his own feet aside. Below, I had mentioned the need to take into account the times in which a president held office. In President Ford's case, he presided over a nation which had just suffered the shock of President Nixon resigning just in time to avoid impeachment and possible [In my opinion, highly probable] removal from office.

What the nation desperately needed above all else was reassurance that the Presidency, and by extension the government, was still worthy of trust. It was most certainly not a 'given'. It's my belief that he understood this very well and that he adopted a 'Steady as she goes' position, knowing full well that it could cost him re-election to a second term.

That thought might cause you to move him up a rung or so on your ladder. But then, if I read you aright, it may have already occurred to you.

With respect,

Jim in Tottenville

Sep. 28 2011 02:11 PM
Karol from NYC

Torus, I have a complicated history with Ford. On one hand, I worked on a book about the 1976 election in which I had to read a year's worth of news with headlines such as "Ford says Soviet Union not a threat" and "Ford says oil cutoff unlikely." But on a personal level I discovered that Ford played a major, major role in getting Jews like me out the Soviet Union. So, I have a fondness for Ford. But same league as Reagan? No.

I hope you're right that in my lifetime I will see other presidents who deserve to be on the pedestal with Reagan. I'm not holding my breath.

Steve, what's funny is that it's no longer cool to despise Reagan so the liberal line has become that Reagan, the president revered by so many, was a liberal too! See Melty's comment.

Sep. 28 2011 01:03 PM
Steve D

Oh, the liberals get Reagan all right. They wouldn't hate him so much, if they didn't!

Sep. 28 2011 12:17 PM

Dear Ms. Markowicz;

I've lived to see the country under 13 different presidents. This permits a certain remove in attempting a comparative evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses. It also provides knowledge of the zeitgeist existent during each of their terms of office.

Given this, and given my lack of need of a hero figure, I find President Reagan a very interesting person. I do not, however, set him upon a pedestal any more than I would elevate President Roosevelt or President Kennedy. Or President Ford, for that matter.

My fondest wish for you is that with maturity you'll expand your perspective.

Sep. 28 2011 08:20 AM
Karol from NYC


Sep. 27 2011 05:59 PM
Karol from NYC

Melty, I've had good friends serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They all came back with the same stories: they're hands were tied when dealing with known terrorists. One explained the chain of approval they had to get when they would see with their own eyes someone planting a roadside bomb. They very rarely ended up killing the guy who was trying to kill them. That's not winning.

And I love how perfect Reagan is to liberals in retrospects. You guys hated him at the time, y'know.

Finally, I didn't write the headline but don't see how it's patronizing. The point of the piece is to explain to liberals why Reagan still matters to us conservatives, something many liberals have told me they don't "get".

Sep. 27 2011 05:39 PM
melty from USA

"...while he [GWB] talked a big game, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought with an eye on winning hearts and minds instead of just, well, winning."

Define "winning" -- I doubt that you can, adequately and acceptably. Reagan was for strong unions and for strong environmental protection and conservation -- that is NOTHING like the new clutch of semi-psychotic right-winger.

And just to reciprocate the patronizing attitude of your title: You just don't get it, do you?

Sep. 27 2011 05:17 PM
JK from USA

I guess you want your president to stand for homophobia, xenophobia, cronyism, poor public health standards, selfishness, mysogeny, pollution, the outsourcing of American jobs, a disbelief in science, and a reliance on talking points over educated critical thought.

I'll take the suit.

Sep. 27 2011 05:05 PM
Karol from NYC

I guess I just like my presidents to stand for something and not be empty suits. We can agree to disagree on that!

Sep. 27 2011 04:48 PM
JK from USA

"Unfortunately for Conservatives, there's not a Reagan in our current presidential field either. Don't get me wrong, they're all better than president Obama, but ..."

You must be out of your mind. Either that or clinging desperately to the false belief that any of them aren't shallow, small minded, uneducated, hypocritical bigots more concerned with being the center of attention, lining the pockets of their friends and attaining power for power's own sake than in doing what's right for Americans.

And let's skip the national debt concern that the GOP suddenly has. As VP Cheney said, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." And after all, we should all listen to Reagan, right?

Sep. 27 2011 04:10 PM

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