Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Analogies: Carter is to Obama as Reagan is to...

If (note the 'if') Obama is the Carter of the 21st century, do we have a Reagan to defeat him after one lucklustre term? As the tragicomedy of the Republican nomination campaign continues, it becomes more and more apparent that there is no 21st century Reagan to run against Obama.

I hope I'm witnessing the demise of Newt Gingrich's campaign. I loathe Newt because he has consistently put his ego above the good of the country, or honesty, or countless other virtues. He is definitely no Reagan.

Today, I regret that there isn't another Reagan, with the caveat that the myth of Reagan glosses over many characteristics out of favor today: negotiating with Democrats, raising Social Security taxes, closing loopholes to increase revenue, increasing deficit spending.

It could be that Reagan picked the low hanging fruit that ripened during years of Democratic domination of Congress. Not that I want to downplay his accomplishments. He showed that the country could reverse the trend of ever increasing social spending without the dire outcomes that liberals predicted (upsurge in crime and desperation with the end of social programs). He also showed the possibility for strong conservative policy objectives after the previous 20 years had been mostly in line with liberal objectives.

Today's Republicans are in a much different situation. Republican ideas have been dominant for 30 years. So would a would-be 21st century Reagan be running against the 20th century Reagan?

Maybe this is the problem we're seeing. Republicans are running against their former selves, at least to a certain extent. That's a problem Reagan didn't have. He could go full bore against the excesses of the Democrats and the exclusion of conservative ideas. Today's Republican candidates have to thread the needle very carefully--use the tactic of blaming Democrats as much as possible, throw in a few mea culpas and 'back to basics' rhetoric. But they can't go full Reagan.

There's a bigger problem than rhetorical positioning, however. Candidates can't promise initiatives the way Reagan did because our fiscal situation limits what we can do. Reagan's sunny outlook just doesn't fit with the times. Would the electorate believe a candidate today who says we can build up our military, face down our enemy, be the leader throughout the world, reform entitlements and put them on a stable footing for the next century, cut taxes, and unleash growth? We would probably roll our eyes and ask: "We already did this. What do we do now?" That's a question even Reagan couldn't answer.

Carter is to Obama as Reagan is to: _____________________  (Your answer here.)


Nick said...

Isn't the obvious answer Huntsman? He was an ambassador under Obama, so has co-operated with Democrats. He plans to reform (and cut) taxes and spending while maintaining America's position as the superpower. And he seems quite rational, friendly, and optimistic. I don't know enough about him (or Reagan to be honest) to know if the similarities are significant, but it seems probable.

ModeratePoli said...

No, Huntsman isn't the obvious answer, but it's great that you have a nomination. That's more than I had. I have to add that the Republican party don't share your opinion, at least not yet. I think he's campaigning for 2016, and I'm looking forward to that.