February 6 is Ronald Reagan’s birthday. While the right has long looked to Reagan as the standard-bearer of conservative leadership, over the past few years, even liberals are waxing Reaganesque.
For instance, before he was the class warrior in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt, President Obama invoked the Gipper to support his millionaire tax. As Reagan historian Steven Hayward remarked, “Ever so slowly, liberals are attempting a subtle revisionism” of our 40th President.
Let’s set the record straight. Just take a look at Ronald Reagan’s greatest achievements as evidence of his conservatism.
Every President is judged on his performance in two areas: peace and prosperity. By this standard, Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest Presidents, and this is why the last half of the 20th century is often described by historians as the Age of Reagan.
Reagan’s military buildup and competition with the Soviet Union not only kept America safe but also, in Margaret Thatcher’s memorable phrase, won the Cold War without firing a shot. At home, he persuaded Congress to pass an economic recovery program—centered on cutting marginal tax rates—that sparked an unprecedented period of peacetime prosperity. As important, Reagan lifted the country out of a great psychological depression induced by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and sustained by the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Jimmy Carter malaise. He did so by appealing to the best in the American character.
As Reagan explained in his Farewell Address, quoting the Constitution, “We the People” was the underlying basis for everything he tried to do as President.