Is The Reagan Era Coming To An End?

Share Button

In the history of the Presidency, there have been Presidents who have left a huge mark on the office for decades after their tenure ended. The third President of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson, was succeeded acolytes James Madison and James Monroe, both of whom served for two terms. Though John Quincy Adams was a member of the same party as his predecessors, seeing that his dad was John Adams, the guy who preceded Jefferson, he probably would not be considered a Jeffersonite. That said, there is no reason that a Jeffersonian couldn’t have risen to the highest office in the land… Save one.

The seventh President of the United States, General Andrew Jackson.

Jackson’s two term Presidency would leave a new mark on the office, and also leave a long shadow. Jackson was succeeded by his own acolyte Martin Van Buren. Due to a drawn out economic depression during his tenure in office (a consequence of monetary policies undertaken by his predecessor) the “Little Magician” was voted out after one term. Thought the new Whig party did capture the White House a couple of times between 1841 and 1843, the Jackson stamp on the Democrat party reigned supreme, as Democrat Presidents Polk and Pierce fit to some degree in the Jacksonian mold. By the time James Buchanan was elected in 1856, Andrew Jackson’s long enduring influence on the party had faded.

The next President to leave such an extended mark on the way candidates ran for President would be Mr. Republican, Ronald Reagan. George Herbert Walker Bush, being the Vice President under Reagan, of course ran on and won based on Reagan’s legacy. He did lose four years later, but his competitor was the superior politician by the name of Bill Clinton. And even though the next election saw the defeat of the next-in-line Republican Bob Dole, the Reagan imprint on the Presidency was far from dead. Dole lost because he was not a very good spokesman or candidate, but also because Clinton had positioned himself as a Democrat heir to Reagan. George W Bush ran as a Reaganesque type guy, a likeable fiscal Conservative.

The next Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, had two obstacles. One would be dislike engendered from his own party based on his former status as “The Maverick”. A great many within the Republican party did not trust him based on his former willingness to cross the isle and bash fellow Republicans when the opportunity arose. The other obstacle was the feel good juggernaut that was candidate Barack Obama. I don’t care who the Republicans would have put up in that election, even a clone of Reagan himself would have lost!

And still, as McCain’s defeat was a referendum on his political positions and lack of Conservative purity, the Reagan legacy survived.

Which brings us to last Tuesdays defeat of Mitt Romney. Unlike four years ago, the idea of the first black President had lost its luster. It’s already done. He was already President, and his tenure in office a difficult and tumultuous one. A good majority of his accomplishments are not exactly super popular, and he is saddled with a sluggish economy with chronic unemployment just below 8 percent. That and the recent Benghazi mess and muddled foreign policy objectives should have made him easy pickings. Due to some flip-flops, and his RomneyCare experiment in Massachusetts, Romney was not a “perfect” candidate for the right. Never the less, the party had come to embrace him in a way they never did with John McCain. Because of his successful business background and impeccably clean image, Romney certainly did have the street cred to be the torchbearer for the Reagan philosophy on issues such as taxes, fiscal responsibility, and being all around business friendly. He adopted a foreign policy stance that was Reaganesque. Romney was, as his predecessors before him, running as the next Reagan, against a President who is seen by may as the next iteration of Reagan’s defeated foe, Jimmy Carter.

And yet, Romney lost.

Is it possible that we are seeing the end of the Reagan era? That his shadow is just too distant to be able to win the day anymore? There are, after all, a good many voters who were either too young to remember the man, or, were not even born when Ronald Reagan was in office. Could it also be the judgement of a new generation that the 30 years of Reaganesque economic policies just didn’t seem to work all that well when all is said and done? Some of my Conservative friends will bristle at this notion. “Obama is a socialist” they’ll say. OK. But how many economic policies has the Obama administration actually changed? Yes, he did bail out the auto industry using government as a tool. But in the grand scheme of things, the auto industry is only a very small part of the over-all economy. Quantitative Easing? That will place a burden on the future economic situation, but it doesn’t stymie growth in the hear and now. Dodd-Frank? Wall Street and Company had figured ways around any legal road blocks created by this bill long before it was ever signed into law.

For the sake of argument, lets say that we have strayed too far from the Reagan economic model. Doesn’t this make my argument for the demise of the Reagan era even more evident? The re-election of Barack Obama may very well be a referendum against the economic policies made popular with the advent of the election of Ronald Reagan, and may indicate that his legacy just doesn’t hold the sway on the public that it used to.

Note: As I finish this post, I noticed that Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast is thinking along similar lines.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply