9 June 2004
I learned to never judge Ronald Reagan, and to give leaders the benefit of being an active citizen who can differ with them but treat them with the respect both leaders and citizens deserve. As I've grown older, I've felt increasingly that he really has had no successors on the national scene that "Reaganism" had turned into another name for the kind of conservatism which conserves less and less and less every year. I hope that people make the benefit of his death a renewed sense of hope and openness and of idealism with open ears and a sense of the pragmatic and to look for those qualities in their candidates, whatever their politics may be.
This "no successors" idea explains much about occasional Republican efforts to engrave Ronald Reagan's name on every conceivable flat surface and his image on Mount Rushmore: there is, I've often suspected, an inchoate feeling within the GOP that while there are political victories still within reach, the party has already peaked, and in the absence of Reagan is destined for a slow but inexorable decline.
Of course, this notion ignores the prodigious capacity for self-destruction that exists in the Democratic party, and the fact that the Democrats don't have a Ronald Reagan either. (They did at one time, but they drove him away.)
Still, a "renewed sense of hope and openness" is what Ronald Reagan was all about, and if we can recapture some of that in the wake of his death, we all benefit.