By Henry Olsen February 3, Ethics & Public Policy Center, Defending American Ideals
Published in the Washington Post on Feb.5, 2017
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His book “Ronald Reagan: New Deal Republican” is scheduled to be published in June.
Monday would have been Ronald Reagan’s 106th birthday. President Trump’s election has caused many observers to bemoan Reagan’s supposedly waning influence on today’s Republican Party. But these people start from the same flawed assumption, that Trump’s election means the United States and Republicans have rejected Reagan’s legacy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Trump’s election does not represent the de-Reaganization of the Republican Party; it presents Republicans with their last, best hope to re-Reaganize it. This flawed common wisdom flows from a flawed understanding of Reagan’s philosophy that accepts the myth that Reagan was an anti-government ideologue. But to paraphrase Reagan himself, it’s not that the common wisdom is wrong, it’s that so much of what it knows just isn’t so.
Reagan’s conservatism was not a more attractive version of Barry Goldwater’s anti-statist ideology. From the moment Reagan started speaking out as a conservative in the late 1950s, he endorsed an active role for government. He believed that government should care for those who could not care for themselves, build public housing for the poor and expand public universities. Where Goldwater attacked Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon for supporting Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Reagan enthusiastically backed both men in their presidential campaigns. READ IT HERE