September 11, 2008
Just a few weeks ago, newspapers and pundits nationwide were writing obituaries for “Reagan conservatism.” They told us “the conservative movement needs new ideas,” “the era of Reagan is over,” “the policies of the past don’t work today,” blah, blah, blah.
Well, some of us knew better. We knew that Americans still crave individual freedom and believe in traditional values and the potential of every innocent human life. We knew that smaller government and lower taxes grow small businesses and inspire Americans to test new ventures and invest in the future, rather than be forced to sacrifice their dreams to pay still more of their hard-earned money to an increasingly socialist government bureaucracy.
But the elitist “wisdom” changed in a flash with a single speech from an unlikely heroine selected from the hinterlands and thrust into the national spotlight to the cheers of millions of Americans. The unbridled enthusiasm for Sarah Palin now sweeping the nation proves that the purveyors of doom and gloom were, once again, wrong.
With the selection of Gov. Palin as his running mate, John McCain showed that he has realized something very important about America: The American people are starved for leaders who represent strong, traditional conservative values.
America wants conservative leadership a la Reagan. Reagan was a straight-talker who didn’t mince words about his bold initiatives to give the government back to the people. Reagan stood for limited government, free markets, strict adherence to the Constitution, personal responsibility and individual freedom. He celebrated the hard work and ingenuity of the American people, worked to preserve the culture of life, and took great delight in shaking up the Washington-establishment status quo.
The actor-turned-governor-turned-president was as revolutionary a choice in his time as the hockey-mom-turned-governor who hopes to turn VP. Their ideas and core principles are the same. Reagan/Palin conservatism is alive and flourishing, and the American people are celebrating like crazy.
The spirits of many across America -- from the small-town leader to the soccer mom -- were like dying embers as the end of a seemingly endless primary season appeared likely to result in the coronation of career politicians and Washington insiders. These same Americans now realize that Sen. McCain was listening to them, and that he understands the future of the nation will be most secure in the hands of limited government conservatives. His choice to elevate Gov. Palin and the entire slate of Reagan values was akin to dousing those embers with jet fuel, resulting in the launch of his party like a rocket and setting the grassroots ablaze with enthusiastic fire.
Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention and the subsequent barrage of attacks on her, her family, and her faith have caused the crowds to go nuclear. It seems the public just won't stand for their new heroine to be slammed in the same fashion that the Reagan Legacy has been attacked.
The Heritage Foundation doesn’t oppose or endorse candidates for political office, but we are the keeper of the conservative flame in Washington, D.C. In that spirit, we launched a “What Would Reagan Do?” public education campaign in January of this year, along with conservative icons Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, to remind Americans that when you govern according to conservative values, America flourishes. We know, as Americans have known all along, that constitutional conservative principles will always work for America.
Ronald Reagan definitely knew all about breaking the status quo. He deregulated oil to lower the cost of gasoline and unshackle the free market. He cut taxes, enabling Americans to apply their hard work in their jobs and at home and then see the results of their efforts. He called attention to the failures of a public education system that had very little to show for all the dollars spent on it. Perhaps most importantly, Reagan showed the world that communism, terrorism and totalitarianism were intolerable and that America must not be held hostage to enemies at home or abroad.
Our daily “What Would Reagan Do?” campaign continues throughout this year, both on the radio and on our website, heritage.org, and we will keep providing valuable research products and the most important conservative document -- a pocket-sized Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Those are the documents Reagan governed by, and they’re the documents by which every government proposal and every politician should be measured -- including Sarah Palin.
So now the libs and pundits know that true conservatism is alive and well. It didn’t need to be redefined, it just needed a new face -- a face that represents the typical freedom-loving American. Conservatism is still the answer for a revolution of freedom, just as it was in the early days of our nation and when Ronald Reagan rode into Washington to save the nation -- and change the world.
Rebecca Hagelin, a vice president at The Heritage Foundation, is the author of “Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad“ and runs the Web site HomeInvasion.org.