In the immediate aftermath of November’s election, conservatives were called upon to change the way they did business. They lost decisively, therefore (so ran the argument) they must have been going about the business of politics the wrong way. One thing you often heard (you still hear it) is that conservatives–or at least Republicans (they are not, alas, the same thing)–should abandon their hero worship of Ronald Reagan. Reagan, we heard, was yesterday’s man. Republicans needed tomorrow’s leader.
Maybe there is something to that. But I confess that the argument often struck me as harboring a plea for conservatives to become more like “liberals,” i.e., more like people who want to curtail freedom in order to “spread the wealth around” and promote socialistic programs like nationalized health care.
That was a mistake that Reagan never made. He was first and last an apostle of individual liberty. He knew that increasing government control of economic life meant increasing government control of all aspects of life. He also had a deep insight into the spiritual legerdemain according to which socialism masqueraded as humanitarianism.
The real problem for conservatives today is not their nostalgic admiration of Reagan, but their distance from Reagan’s moral clarity. A clever blogger at Texas Rainmaker (hat-tip to Instapundit) reminds us of just how great that distance is by juxtaposing some observations by Reagan with some observations by the current President of the United States.