First things first, Ronald Reagan was a great President. Easily among the top ten. Sure thing for one of the top five. What America accomplished under his two terms even today is breathtaking to behold. Reagan Conservatism was and remains viable. No wonder many tend to look at today’s crop of Presidential hopefuls and ask some form of the question we’ve all become way too familiar with – “who is the next Ronald Reagan?”
That question ignores a key factor within the electorate. Someone born during Ronald Reagan’s FINAL year in office will be 28 next year. He or she will have limited recollection of Bill Clinton’s Presidency. Nirvana, Guns and Roses, Run DMC, and NWA are “classics” for him or her. The notion of a Cold War, Communism, a Warsaw Pact, and Iron Curtain seem detached and perhaps cartoonish for these people. Someone born during Reagan’s last year in office was a teenager during George W Bush’s Presidency and the first time he or she was able to vote for a President the choice was between Obama and McCain. The only tangible impression these men and women have of Ronald Reagan might just be the Time magazine cover which featured Reagan and Obama, juxtaposed together, as though the two were once old pals just hanging out and having a friendly chat.
In other words, as important as the Ronald Reagan legacy remains, many of these voters haven’t a clue about any of it whether via personal experience or upbringing. (And yes, to be fair many of them DO understand the importance of Reagan). They’ve grown up with a different history than what many have experienced. A lot of them are the reason why Obama won in 2008 and 2012, and it’s largely their support that’s driving Bernie Sanders towards the narrowest of polling margins versus Hillary.
“Rich people pit the poor against each other …divide and conquer…you know”. That’s what a member of this demographic – she (we’ll call her Joan here) was born in 1988 – remarked recently in the office. Take away the absurdity of the statement and notice what’s underlying in Joan’s analysis of modern America. “Rich people” and “poor people”. In Joan’s view they are two disparate groups forever in their places. The rich always stay rich. The poor always remain poor. The fiscal pie is static; it never gets any bigger. (Is it any wonder this is the demographic that believes in “sustainable economics” and even pursues college degrees in it as a major?).
“Divide and conquer”. Perplexing until further commentary from Joan revealed that it’s racism the rich use to keep poor people of different ethnicities from joining together to challenge the rich. In Joan’s analysis, the rich and poor are forever kept in their places this way. Then there’s the “you know”. It’s a clever tactic progressives often use to sucker others into supporting their point of view. “You know” implies that it’s common knowledge, that everyone knows it to be fact. Try it. Tell people “the sky is green every Tuesday you know” and chances are someone will agree with you, simply because it’s common knowledge, you know?
As far left and radical as Joan’s statement appears, it’s necessary to realize that her point of view isn’t unique or singular within her peer group. Lots of them believe this sort of thing. It’s why people like her are quick to praise Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, but distance themselves from John F Kennedy. Of the three, the latter was much too Conservative for their Progressive agenda to bear. FDR left unfinished business. And Wilson, it’s silly to consider him as anything other than an American patriot willing to reconstruct our national foundations for our own good no matter what crazies like Glenn Beck and myself might claim. That’s where a lot of minds in the 28 and younger demographic are at these days.
It’s not lost on Hillary. There is a reason her latest image makeover pretends that she’s a TMZ-ready celeb, enjoying a good fist bump with a Kardashian every now and again. The other makeovers were flops. Scooby van and Chipotle just looked weird. Snapchat Hillary made her look arrogant and dumb given the flurry of new information regarding her illegal email server. (Joan thinks the server issue and Benghazi are “bs” designed to deliver unprecedented “hatred” towards “a woman” running for President). The brief flirt her campaign issued — the one in which Bill Clinton was mentioned as her possible VP running mate — failed to generate any chatter. And it was designed to. By now we are supposed to have endured about a week or so of media discussion over the legality of Bill being the VP and what it would mean if something happened to Hillary. The 28 and younger crowd isn’t interested though because they were infants, toddlers, and elementary school kids back when “Bill and HIll” pretended to share a “co-presidency”, which translated to Bill getting frisky with young female co-eds and Hillary developing a national health care scheme that to this day makes Obamacare look palatable.
The Joans just aren’t well informed. Unless it involves racism or classism they don’t get it. (Joan didn’t realize Carly Fiorina was a Republican until someone informed her. She assumed Fiorina was a Democrat because well, Fiorina is a woman. Joan hasn’t come across Dr. Ben Carson, Gov Bobby Jindal, or Marco Rubio yet. When she does no doubt she will assume they are all Democrats too because they are African American, Indian American, and Hispanic respectively). They understand the world through hyperactive diatribes cast as internet memes, and whatever vitriol can be packed into a tweet. Hillary fist bumping with the Kardashian-clan will fit right in with this.
All that said, while it’s terrific that Conservatives use the Reagan standard when assessing candidates for the Presidency, it’s equally important that we get our message across in a way that everyone can understand. For the left, ideology informs their ideas, and that’s why they haven’t presented a new idea since the 19th Century. Every single agenda item they have is rooted in the same worn out notions of class and oppression. For the right, ideas inform the ideology, and that’s why Conservatives are rich in new and bold ideas. Most of these ideas though aren’t easily explained with a hashtag and wouldn’t come across well on TMZ.
Perhaps then, the part of the Reagan legacy to which most attention needs to be given is his role as “The Great Communicator”. To win next year our side must have someone that can speak to everyone — the alternative might just be eight years of another TMZ-ready fist-bumper…