As I watched the tea-party protests and crowded town halls, I couldn’t help but think of President Reagan. For millions of us, the dismal Carter era sparked a similar political awakening, and Ronald Reagan was the key.
He wasn’t the source of our new vision, but he knew the source and pointed the way. He understood the trials ahead, and regularly explained them to us.
Back then, most young Americans – like so many today – didn’t understand what had happened to our country. We didn’t fully realize the nature of “liberalism” (especially those of us who were Democrats) until Reagan stepped into the political arena and boldly proclaimed American liberty.
Like today, it was a time of economic struggle, and socialism was on the march. In the painful aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate, made more painful by a cynical media, self-doubt among traditional Americans was palpable even as we headed toward the 1980 election. But Reagan remained optimistic – and he was a fierce campaigner.
He rebuked liberals who blamed America for everything (some of the same people are in Congress today). He mocked Democrats who urged us to lower our expectations and limit our vision. Undaunted by critics, Reagan cheered us on and raised our hopes.
But he didn’t call us to hope for more government, as President Obama does. Government wasn’t the solution, as Reagan said over and over. Government was the problem, especially when led by “big government” liberals – whether Democrat or Republican.
Reagan’s hope was rooted in greater things. He believed in our traditions of limited government and free markets. He believed in an “Under God” America, and yes, a strong America. And he believed in the American people, not because we were special, but because we were uniquely free – and that made us special.
He called on us to spread that freedom around the world. For Ronald Wilson Reagan, America was still that “shining city on a hill,” and he wasn’t ashamed to say it. Reagan’s America was and still is “exceptional.” And Reagan told us why.
Because no matter where you’re from, if you come to America and agree to live by our principles, you are an American – fully and forever. But you must love this country’s ideals. You must love liberty and its foundational truths.
The best documentary on how the Gipper single-handedly brought down Soviet communism: “In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed”
The left mocks those truths – in fact, any claim to truth – and on this shifting sand, they offer us “hope and change.” They claim to love us but can’t explain love. After all, what is love without truth? They offer us social progress but can’t tell us where it leads.
They can’t explain our problems, but offer solutions anyway – and their solutions always increase their power over us. Thus, nothing in Washington has changed, nor will it under 20th century liberalism.
Reagan warned us it wouldn’t – not without the American people involved, not without the “new patriotism” he called for in his farewell address to the American people. He warned us not to forget who we were as a nation.
I saw our memory return this summer in those growing crowds of “new patriots” rising above party loyalty to cheer for freedom in town after town. Reagan would have rejoiced at the sight. He had stood as a witness to America – through her struggles and her victories. He fought socialism as a worldwide movement and in our own halls of power.
A union man himself, he stood against union thugs who sought to control people’s lives. He understood the dangers of socialism and warned about it often. He knew freedom needed defending and understood America’s role in that defense. He pointed the way.
Yes, Ronald Reagan rallied us, but how wonderful that in this time of our awakening – here in the 21st century – it was the American people themselves who rang the alarm against state power. People with a voice and those with no voice at all – “mom and pop” Americans – rallied together calling us to the better angels of our political nature.
No political leader has risen yet as Reagan did back then, so we ourselves stepped forward. We have met freedom’s champion, and it is us.
Yes, our nation made wrong choices. We turned back to liberalism. We forgot ourselves with all the talk of “new politics.” But now we remember there’s nothing new about it. It was Reagan’s battle then – and now it’s ours.
How inspiring to see regular Americans fiercely reminding politicians of a simple truth – that ever-growing state power and liberty are alien to each other.
This is nothing new – nothing more than what our founders said many times; so when regular Americans were called “mobs” it only reminded us of what we were up against. The state and its party don’t like to be questioned. They know what’s best for us.
The struggle between “under-God” America and “government-as-god” America continues, and nothing since Reagan’s farewell warning has changed that – not the fall of Soviet communism, not the rise of jihadist terrorism. Our political opponents still live under the same secular delusions described by Reagan many years ago.
“No matter how well intentioned, their value system is radically different from that of most Americans,” Reagan told us in 1983. “And while they proclaim that they’re freeing us from superstitions of the past, they’ve taken upon themselves the job of superintending us by government rule and regulation.”
Sound familiar? After 9/11 we thought they’d changed. They sang “God Bless America” with us. They showed some grit. We thought that in the face of a real enemy they’d awakened from their hatred of traditional America. We are paying a price now for forgetting what Reagan spent so much of his life teaching us.
So once again we allowed ourselves to be convinced that America is to blame for the world’s problems – and even for terrorism itself – and once again our opponents urged us to lower our expectations and limit our vision. Once again, they waged class warfare and decried capitalism – and once again they undermined a war effort. Nothing has changed.
Sure, they tell us how much they care and how good things will be – but “government rule and regulation” is finally all they have to offer. Reagan warned us of the danger, yet he called us to higher ground than to respond with hate. He called us to the nobility of freedom. We win with truth.
Now is the time for Reagan’s “new patriots” to redouble their efforts. Don’t worry about the union thugs or street organizers. Don’t worry about the mocking media, the name calling, or about being ignored despite your thousands. Reagan faced it all before – just read his speeches.
“The cult of the state,” as he called it, is still with us. Nothing has changed. Too many Americans have forgotten America. And so we must stand and remind them.
They don’t think “under God” belongs in our Pledge and don’t care what history says on the matter. But the rest of us do – so stand and teach them!
They think we’re fools to claim God-given rights, but their struggle to “change” what they don’t understand will only end in disaster. Stand against them – for sake of their children and grandchildren, as well as ours.
Thank you for doing that. Thank you for going to all those tea parties, for the miles you drive and the signs you make. Thank you for enduring the trials and disappointments that inevitably come, and for making a difference the way you have. People are listening. Ronald Reagan would be proud.