Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute. He is a professor of Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, and Contracts at the National Paralegal College, a counselor at the American College of Education, and a founding board member of Salt and Light Global. Washington is a co-host of "Joshua's Trial," a radio show of Christian conservative thought. A graduate of JohnMore ↓Less ↑
There is no point in pining for “another Ronald Reagan.” Great leaders don’t come along very often, and in many ways Reagan was an American original. … [W]e don’t need another Reagan. Rather, we simply need to ask in every situation that arises, What would Reagan have done?
– Dinesh D’Souza, in “Ronald Reagan,” a biography
This month marks the centennial birth year of President Ronald Reagan, the founding father of modern political conservatism who against all odds and by the sheer power of his ideas, personality and vision pulled America from the malaise, stagflation and the servile posture of the Carter administration to the lofty heights of what he envisioned America’s destiny to be – a shining city on a hill.
In 1988, Reagan’s vision to rescue America’s greatness compelled me to become a conservative Republican as a young graduate student studying history and law at Harvard during the same time Barack Obama was there, although I have no distinct memory of the man.
I’m certain most of you reading this column have been profoundly touched by Reagan’s conservatism, which was both organic and authentic. He often would say, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” Over half of his life was spent being our John the Baptist, a clarion voice of reason, freedom, truth and constitutionalism piercing the cacophony of Social Darwinism, progressivism, welfare statism and moral relativism to show America that truly there was better way.
Reagan & Christ
In this respect I believe Reagan’s life and legacy to be similar to Jesus Christ. No, Reagan wasn’t perfect: He signed a pro-abortion bill as governor of California; as president Reagan raised taxes, committed deficit spending, gave amnesty to illegal aliens, made horrible foreign policy moves in Nicaragua and Lebanon and allowed his wife, Nancy, to wield secret powers way above her pay grade.
Yet, Reagan seized the mandate to reclaim America’s greatness, to return our politics from the slave chains of FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society and Obama’s New Deal Part 2: policies he saw as fool’s gold and America’s Faustian bargain with the devil. No, no, no – Reagan would have none of this utopian socialism and in a 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” boldly proclaimed, Outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing better than the private sector.
Reagan stood for the rule of law, constitutionalism and in the explicit, black-letter limitations of congressional power found in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Adherence to those specific enumerated powers the constitutional framers gave to Congress would have prevented or abrogated all of the universal problems America faces during the Age of Obama:
$15 trillion debt, $5 trillion deficit; 84 percent of our budget goes towards Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense and is removed from budgetary consideration;
China is about to eclipse America as the dominant political, economic and military superpower and owns much of our debt;
The European Union has shackled once-great European nations with the servile chains of socialism and Keynesianism where if one nation’s economy falls (Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland), then all will eventually fall;
When Egypt becomes the Iran of the Middle East, to survive, Israel will be forced to retake the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza, setting the stage for Armageddon;
Feckless politicians bribing the people with their own money, public schools failing on purpose, bombed-out cities, rampant crime, abortion, genocide at the Mexican border and a rising American zeitgeist of hopelessness.
Although Reagan lived in different times, the eternal solutions are found in what he did, the transcendent ideas he believed in – God, American exceptionalism, Natural Law, truth and freedom to pursue happiness without government permission or control.
In an article reporting on Newt Gingrich marking Reagan’s centenary, the writer noted:
“Gingrich said Reagan’s presidency was unique in that he set his mind on three goals – bringing an end to communism, revitalizing the American economy by reducing the size of government and reducing taxes, and re-establishing the idea of American exceptionalism. He pursued them relentlessly, making a commitment to forming a plan and seeing it through, something Gingrich said is lacking in modern American politics.”
What happened to our national psyche? Did America have a communal lobotomy? How could Reagan win 44 states in 1980 and 49 states in 1984, yet Americans elected such anti-Reagan figures as Bush-41, Clinton, Bush-43 and Obama? All these men loved Reagan’s charisma and popularity yet feared and hated his conservative policies. Even Bush-43′s speechwriter Matt Latimer said Bush told him as late at 2008, “There is no [conservative] movement!” and forced Latimer to remove all such rhetoric from his speech.
To effect true change to those gargantuan problems highlighted above Reagan would tell our leaders to follow the same three simple principles he campaigned on and accomplished during his two terms as president – defeat communism (including socialism and fascism), revitalize the American economy by reducing taxes and the size of government and re-establish the idea of American exceptionalism.
Being despised and rejected with a smile and optimism was one character trait Reagan had that most politicians and power brokers can never identify with because they are duplicitous, excessively ambitious and demand respect. Reagan repeatedly used humility together with his unshakeable faith in God, truth and American exceptionalism to overcome seemingly impossible odds all his life. He led a rich and fruitful life, yet just behind that wonderful smile and just behind those piercing sparkling eyes was a profound lachrymose sadness that shrouded the man. Even so, he smiled, shook every hand and sacrificed his all for America.
Christ did not attend the rabbinical schools of his day, and Reagan did not graduate from Ivy League schools like most U.S. presidents. Reagan, like Christ was a suffering servant, the despised and forgotten (political) prophet. Both men endured constant humiliation, contempt and perversion of their ideas to this day as many antichrists and antireagans abound – yet both are ultimately vindicated because they loved the truth and gave love, liberty and truth to the world.