Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A different view of Ronald Reagan

It's impossible to avoid the accolades and tributes to the late Ronald Reagan this week, as the nation prepares to bury him on Friday. In today's Washington Post, Marc Fisher looks at Reagan's presidency and legacy a different way. Like Fisher, I also never understood how so many people could love this man so much, when he seemed so out of it, so detached from the realities of life in America. I didn't hate him (or if I did, it was a childish hatred born out of a lack of understanding of politics), but I knew that his economic ideas had long-term consequences for my generation, that his foreign policy might have gotten us all annihilated by the Soviet Union, and that his social ideas were just plain wrong. (OK, that's just me being a Democrat almost since birth.) There are those who promote Reagan as the greatest president of the 20th century, who seek to put his face on our paper money and coins, and who would name something in every state and county in the nation after him. They're wrong on every count. I'd put him in the top 10 presidents of the last century, but the Roosevelts, LBJ, and maybe even Clinton would come before him. (Clinton, for all his faults, did preside over one of the greatest periods of economic growth in history.) Besides, Reagan already has an airport, a federal office building, and an aircraft carrier that bear his name. Do we really need to name every third public school and municipal court building after him? If the Republicans have their way, I guess we do.

Reagan's passing is a sad occasion, and I admit that I'm moved when I read and hear some of the things people say about him. Thinking about Reagan reminds me of my middle school and high school years, which were filled with heated arguments with my conservative Republican friends about Reagan's policies and ideals. While I was usually on the losing ends of these arguments, they were some of the best times I had with my friends. Oh, to be young, idealistic, and naive about the real world again....

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