Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ronald Reagan's Legacy

Talking about Ronald Reagan is a somewhat risky proposition. Conservatives revere him, as witnessed by the recent competitors for the Republican National Committee Chairmanship all affirming that Reagan was the greatest Republican President. In that honor he beat out another Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. Given the reverence for Reagan displayed by the Right and his relatively recent passing, most Democrats take a pass at talking about him. They either mimic faintly the reverence of Republicans or keep their mouths shut.

Ronald Reagan, to a large extent, created modern Republicanism however, and had a hand in creating modern conservatism as well. Many of the things we decry about Rush Limbaugh or George W. Bush had their roots in Reagan's vision of government. And this is the point of an article by Dave Zweifel over at Commondreams.

Zweifel notes the National Committee meeting referenced above and then points out Reagan's questionable legacy.
My first political memory of Reagan goes way back to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ronald Reagan was then the governor of California. He didn't have much praise for the slain civil rights leader, blaming his murder on "a great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people (i.e. King) started choosing which laws they'd break."

While everyone from presidential candidate Richard Nixon to the sanitation workers in Memphis was publicly mourning King's death, Reagan was indirectly appealing to the bigotry that was so prevalent in the 1960s: that Martin Luther King Jr. deserved what he got.

. . . Reagan succeeded in changing American culture from one of looking out for each other to one of looking out for one's self. Taxes were bad, period. Placing checks on savings and loans and banks would hurt the economy.
Reagan was a transformational President, there's no question of that. His legacy as one of the most important American Presidents is assured. What we can, and must question are whether or not his transformation was truly beneficial to America.

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