August 14, 2015

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We Were Once the Party of Ideas and Optimism

On my desk is  a book titled “Grinning With the Gipper.”

It’s 117 pages of Ronald Reagan’s humor.reagan-laughing

Think of that. A US president who could fill a book with jokes.

My cursory review shows that about 60 percent of the jokes are on Reagan himself. And another 20 percent are on Republicans.

Ronald Reagan knew that life is too short and too precious to waste it on anger and pride. Better to spend your days getting laughs.

It was a teacher who steered me into acting, an English teacher name B. J. Fraser, back in Dixon, Illinois. He’s gone now, but I somehow can imagine him saying, “But I take no responsibility for his going into politics.”

–Ronald Reagan, White House Teacher of the Year Ceremony, April 9, 1984

And then there was Jack Kemp, a football quarterback who wrote the Reagan tax cut bill. Kemp wrote it in 1977 and kept at it until Reagan managed to get it through Congress in 1981.jack_kemp

Kemp represented in Congrss a blue collar, union district in Buffalo, New York. When he ran the first time, he threatened Buffalo Bills fans that he’d return to football if they didn’t elect him to Congress.

He won the election.

I was a kid–a disturbingly politicized kid–when all this was going in. I became a Republican because Republicans like Reagan and Kemp had great ideas and endless optimism. When they won, America got happier.

My friends and I believe in constitutionally limited government, which is to say, we don’t believe in anarchy, and we don’t believe in despotism. But as I wrote yesterday, constitutionally limited government means nothing to most people. It’s like saying I believe in good weather and fair winds.

The purpose of constitutionally limited government is a free nation where everybody works and gets happier by the day. That requires a few things:

** Growth ** Opportunity ** Freedom ** Virtue ** Responsibility ** Optimism ** Humor ** Humility ** Leadership

We all love Ronald Reagan because he embodied those qualities. Every American can and should aspire to those qualities in himself.

What’s more, those are the real principles of conservatism. Those are the bedrock principles of the Republican Party.

If the GOP starts at the bottom, choosing a leader who represents all the other qualities on that list, the GOP will dominate in elections. And I can prove it with this question: would you rather live in a country that embodies that list or a country that embodies its opposites?

P.S. I have never seen a picture of Obama as happy as Reagan in these two photos. And there are hundreds more of Reagan just as jubilant.