By Dr. Steven Metz
Those who claim to be the inheritors of the Reagan revolution badly misunderstand it. It was never about specific policies but tone and style. It won out over both Democrats and Communists because it offered better ideas and–importantly–a positive vision. Reagan was much less interested in discrediting his opponents than in inspiring supporters.
Led by Newt Gingrich and taken to hysterical heights by pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, Reagan’s better ideas and positive vision gave way to deep negativity. Rather than better ideas, they offer only an unending spew of attacks against Democrats and the political left.
The commentary on the Egypt crisis by those who would claim to be Reagan’s descendents is a perfect illustration. Nearly everything they say at least begins with a slam on the Democrats, especially Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Making the Middle East more stable and furthering American interests is almost an afterthought, tacked on after the flames directed at the Democrats.
Certainly this ideology of attack and insult has its constituency. One has only to look the audiences of Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, and Beck to see that. But it also has rigid limitations.
Many people–probably most people–are more attracted to a positive vision than diatribes. They want to be uplifted more than seeing their opponents belittled. That was Reagan’s genius. And this was the reason that millions of people uncomfortable with Obama’s policy positions voted for him nonetheless. In a real sense, Obama is more the inheritor of the Reagan revolution than most of today’s Republicans.
At this point, though, there are few true Reaganites on the political right in terms of those who offer better ideas and a positive vision rather than simply vitriol. A new Reagan on the right would face immense challenges since he or she would first have to rein in the powerful and vociferous hate industry before promoting a new, positive vision.
Until or unless this happens though, the Democrats are more Reagan’s descendents than the Republicans.