Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reagan the Pragmatic Conservative

What is the one element that today's conservative Reagan-worshippers forget? They forget Reagan's pragmatism. From Reagan's 1977 speech on bulding a Republican majority:

...When economic and social conservatives meet today, they share one major concern and that is what a big-spending, irresponsible Congress has done to the earning power of American workers. ... Let us at least see if it is possible to present a program of action based on political principle that can attract those interested in the so-called "social" issues and those interested in "economic" issues. In short, is it possible to combine the two major segments of contemporary American conservatism into one politically effective whole?

I believe these are the most important questions in American politics today. And my answer to all of them is: yes, it is possible to create a political entity that will reflect the views of the great, hitherto, unorganized conservative majority. ... What I envision is not simply a melding together of the two branches of American conservatism into a temporary uneasy alliance, but the creation of a new, lasting majority.

This will mean compromise. But not a compromise of basic principle. What will emerge will be something new, something open and vital and dynamic, something the great conservative majority will recognize as its own, because at the heart of this undertaking is principled politics.

I have always been puzzled by the inability of some political and media types to understand exactly what is meant by adherence to political principle. All too often in the press and the television evening news it is treated as a call for "ideological purity". Whatever ideology may mean--and it seems to mean a variety of things, depending upon who is using it--it always conjures [sic] up in my mind a picture of a rigid, irrational clinging to abstract theory in the face of reality. ...I consider this to be the complete opposite to principled conservatism. If there is any political viewpoint in this world which is free of slavish adherence to abstraction it is American conservatism.

When a conservative states that the free market is the best mechanism ever devised by the mind of man to meet material needs, he is merely stating what a careful examination of the real world has told him, is the truth.

... When a conservative says it is bad for the government to spend more than it takes in, he is simply showing the common sense that also tells him to come in out of the rain.

... When a conservative quotes Jefferson that government that is clos­est to the people is best, it is because he knows that Jefferson risked his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to make certain that what he and his fellow patriots learned from experience was not crushed by an ideology of empire.

Conservatism is the antithesis of the kind of ideological fanatacism [sic] that has brought so much horror and destruction to the world. The common sense and the common decency of ordinary men and women, working out their own lives in their own way--this is the heart of American conservatism today. Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn--not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before.

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