…we must never see him solely as a symbol of a shameful era — because his rise was attributable in part to an inertia and lack of vision that gripped our predecessors on the left. It was in part our inability to satisfy the hunger of Americans for positive leadership that caused Reagan and other former liberals to embrace a radical ideology that was before only espoused by crackpots and the prophets of selfishness. So while we rightly condemned Reagan for his extremism and hostility to the egalitarian ideals of his youth, perhaps we should take this occasion not only to remember Reagan’s failings, but also to reflect upon the failings of the left that allowed the ascension of the extreme right.
The real question with Reagan, I would venture, is not how he shifted the times but rather what forces fashioned the historical moment in which the Ronald Reagans – of whom there have always been many – could ascend to a position of political and ideological hegemony – and how we can turn them back.
I have to disagree with Trapper John though when he writes:
Let’s ensure that the same Republican machine that cried about supposedly untoward politicization of the Paul Wellstone memorial service doesn’t use Reagan’s passing as an excuse to play politics.
Reagan left a political legacy, and I see no problem with placing it front and center in his memorial. It’s entirely appropriate that conservatives take Reagan’s death as an opportunity to advance his legacy. And it’s equally appropriate that the rest of us take the opportunity to examine it, to reject it, and to renew our devotion to fighting it.