Barack Obama may be the Democrats’ Ronald Reagan. But there’s a key difference. In 1980, Ronald Reagan espoused a set of principles, primarily resting on the notion that the government which governs least governs best. Obama offers no such principle at all. He doesn’t advance Reagan and Thomas Jefferson’s ideology. Nor does he advance the ideology of FDR, that government is the only solution to economic and moral problems. Yet once in office, if he gets there, Obama will not be able to escape principles. It’s not too difficult to imagine which principles he will act upon, once there.
A majority of Americans loved Ronald Reagan. Most were not conservative, but most were not particularly liberal or socialist, either. They voted for him because they liked him, and those who agreed with him (a minority) worked very hard on his behalf to elevate him into power. He didn’t have a Republican Congress, so there wasn’t much he could do domestically beyond cut taxes and end the “Fairness Doctrine” which made possible today’s conservative talk radio. Reagan’s main contribution was where a President–especially the leader of a divided government–has the most power: Defense policy. Most agree that his policies contributed to the fall of Communism.
If history repeats itself, a majority of Americans may come to love Barack Obama. Most are not as left-wing as he undoubtedly will prove to be once he’s actually in office, if he gets there. Yet he will have an equally left-wing Democratic Congress with nothing more than “me too” opposition to be expected from the Republican minority. He’ll get all or most of what he wants, with nationalized medicine only as a starter. Corporate, income and capital gains taxes will all go up–thereby taking even more capital out of our already floundering system of capitalism. He’ll move the country left, meaning: He’ll make more and more of us wards of the state. He’ll do it in the name of “change,” and before you know it we’ll be living in the midst of more socialism and statism than ever before. On top of it, he’ll make good on his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, and he’ll put into practice the implications of this policy: Pacifism in the face of terrorism. Terrorists will have a green light to proceed with their deadly tactics, rather than the yellow light under President Bush.
Reagan moved the country more to the right than it wanted to go. He did it in the name of his adherence to a philosophy of more limited government than the country conceived of at the time. Communism fell and economic conditions generally improved under his watch. Obama has the opportunity to move the country more to the left than it wants to go. When we’re forced to live with the consequences of these policies, it will be more than a little interesting to see what happens next.