The Pragmatic Reagan

“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting” – Ronald Reagan

This may surprise you, but I got to talking about politics today with a good friend. Shocking, I know. At one point, the subject turned to presidential nominees and how the Republicans in particular don’t really nominate too many conservatives. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and John McCain – those are the last six. Reagan may be the only one we will remember as a conservative. Ford, Bush (41), Dole, and McCain were clearly “moderates,” and Bush (43) will likely not be remembered as a conservative, given the massive growth of government under his watch.

One wonders how much our remembrance of Reagan is colored by the contrast of the times. He was no Barry Goldwater as far as conservatism goes. But, with Jimmy Carter in the White House and the Tip O’Neil socialists in Congress on a rampage, Reagan may well have looked like an anti-federalist.

Whatever the accusations of rigid dogmatism may have been, Reagan demonstrated some pretty amazing pragmatism. His pragmatism was not one of finding compromise on difficult issues – finding the “middle ground” as it were. No, Reagan’s pragmatism was broader, allowing him to trade away less important issues for the sake of more important issues.

For the biggies, Reagan wanted tax cuts and the defeat of Soviet communism. On these he was hard-charging. He gave way on his desire for a balanced budget so he would not have to compromise on cuts to the marginal tax rates and defense build-up.

In a world that was as, for lack of a better term, jacked up by high tax rates and threat of communism, picking those issues and sticking to them was quite effective at moving the country and the world in the right direction.

I caught a little flack (not a lot, mind you, but a little) for endorsing Chris Christie for the presidency in 2012. (Keep your eye on the ball now, I’ll probably endorse a lot of folks for the same job before it’s over.) I honestly couldn’t tell you where he stands on a whole host of issues – but on two pretty big ones I think he’s on the right side, and dramatically so.

First, Chris Christie is pro-life. For a gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey to come out as pro-life must mean that he (i) is and (ii) is unafraid of being so – laying his convictions out for the voters to see. (I wish more politicians would do that.) As a Christian, I have a real problem voting for candidates who are not pro-life, particularly when they will have a hand in abortion policy.

Second, Chris Christie is looking to cut government spending. I’d say this one is more important than tax rates. It’s the spend rate that matters most. Every dime the government spends is one they take from us, whether directly through taxation or indirectly through generating more money out of thin air. Our government spending is out of control, promises of future benefits are through the roof, and nobody seems willing to make dramatic changes. That is, except for Chris Christie. (And Ron Paul, of course, who always has my tacit endorsement – I just hand these things out like door prizes.)

In my estimation these are two crucial issues for the future of this country. They offer dramatic opportunities for success if a politician is willing to confront the issues honestly and with integrity. I do believe that Chris Christie would do that.

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