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Is Palin Reagan? Is Obama?

Yesterday, to the question of whether Sarah Palin is Ronald Reagan, Glenn Reynolds answered in the negative:

Though Reagan was portrayed as an amiable dunce, he in fact spent many years working out his ideas before running for President. Palin hasn’t done that yet. She has considerable natural talent as a politician, but she’s no Ronald Reagan. Then again, neither was Ronald Reagan, at 44.

While I have compared Palin to the Gipper, calling her Reaganesque, I agree with that assessment.  She is considerably younger now (nine years younger in fact) that Reagan was when he “launched” his political career with his 1964 speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.

Called “The Speech” because of its seminal importance in the Gipper’s career, it served as a distillation of the many ideas he had been working out over the previous decade or so. For Palin to become like Reagan, many of whose natural political talents she shares, she is going to have to embark on a process similar to his.

By and the large, the Gipper educated himself about political philosophy and economic freedom, reading widely. She should follow his path and explore the classics of free-market conservatism. She could enhance her own education by reaching out to leading experts in various field, perhaps inviting them to the Naval Observatory (should she win) or to Alaska (should she lose) for seminars similar to those former California Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon, Jr. organized for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the outset of his presidential campaign.

What defined Reagan was a combination of natural political talents, charisma and a commitment to a set of ideas.

While it is the working out of those ideas which distinguishes Palin from the Gipper, it is the commitment to ideas which distinguishes Barack Obama from the Great Communicator.  While Reagan embraced conservative ideas in his bids for the White House, the successful ones as well as the unsuccessful ones, Obama has pretty much run from his liberal record in the current campaign.

Contrast the speeches which launched each man onto the national stage.  While Reagan’s 1964 speech serves as a criticism of “Great Society” liberalism with reference to specific policies (and their problems) with praise for Goldwater’s free market approach, Obama’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 was, in the words of David Freddoso, “all cotton candy:”*

The speech was full of empathy and passion, but it also may have been the least substantive address of the convention. That Obama could be so widely praised for a speech so full of content is a tribute to his oratorical skills, his good looks, and to the good feeling he creates.

That the Democratic nominee has those gifts is why people compare him to Reagan.

But, that’s really all they have in common. Reagan brought to the political arena — and later to the federal government — a political philosophy he had spent years working out, one rooted in a study of conservative and libertarian ideas, American history and the (then-)current economic situation. In his public statements — and even in his private conversations on matters political and economic — he almost never lost sight of those principles.

Both have good communication skills.  Reagan at least had something beyond lofty visions to communicate.

What distinguishes Reagan from Obama is his commitment to a particular political philosophy and his readiness to acknowledge it. What distinguishes him from Sarah Palin is that he had spent years working it out.

Having shown a similar commitment to those ideas, Palin could, if she follows a course similar to the Gipper, come to more closely resemble the man she has cited as a hero. She just needs to flesh out her basic conservative principles. Obama still needs to figure out what he stands for, whether it be his rhetorical support for change or his legislative support for traditional liberal remedies to all problems economic as well as social.

In short, while neither candidate, Barack Obama or Sarah Palin, is the new Reagan of his (or her) respective political party, Sarah Palin has the greater chance of becoming his equivalent.

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* I challenge anyone to find substantive policy points in that address.

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17 Comments

  1. Great post. Well stated.

    Ideas matter. That is: principles matter. Ford, McCain, Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Bush 41, Bush 43 and all mushy moderates are distinguished by their lack of them. They’d pretend to have them, but offer only pragmatic mush – or, in the case of Bush 43′s “compassionate conservatism”, toxic and destructive mush.

    But Republicans can’t win or govern successfully without standing for *great* principles and ideas. That is what Reagan did, and that is what the next Reagan (Palin? Jindal? Thompson? etc.) must do.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 16, 2008 @ 2:41 pm - October 16, 2008

  2. Good post, as usual, but I disagree in this: I think Obama is very committed to a political philosophy — he is a committed socialist/Marxist. Its just that, unlike Reagan, Obama is more than happy to lie and misrepresent what he believes in order to get elected.

    Comment by American Elephant — October 16, 2008 @ 4:22 pm - October 16, 2008

  3. The Education should not only be for Gov Palin, but for most of Republican office holders. It is so frustrating that Republicans can not succinctly argue about “conservative” economic philosophy. Why can’t Sen McCain explain that there are other drags on our economy than just the Wall Street Idiots or the Scum Mortgage Opportunists. We as a country, have put so many restrictions on our economy that a blow like the one we have witnessed the past few weeks relative to the credit crisis, is devastating.
    Why can’t Sen McCain explain that a higher tax rate for upper income earners hurts those trying to make a higher income, not the rich folk that already have accumulated their wealth and if necessary, can wait out a bad economy in a bunker, because of the resources they already have?
    Why can’t the Republican Congressional Leadership explain that our energy policy that keeps us from affordable energy by not allowing off shore drilling for so long or no drilling in an insignificant sized portion of ANWAR, thereby shipping our dollars overseas is a drag on our economy?
    The situation we find ourselves in now took a long time to arrive, but arrived because so many office holders (and that includes complacent Republican office holders) put so many restrictions on living, earning and building wealth, that these policies are now are sinking us, and because we have candidates that are not sufficiently educated enough to explain to voters their positions, we are faced with someone who will move to implement socialist policies that will inhibit us from providing for ourselves and our loved ones. A sad situation we find ourselves in.
    So not only does Gov Palin need to continue her political philosophy education, but so does the rest of the lot.

    Comment by HCN — October 16, 2008 @ 5:30 pm - October 16, 2008

  4. The Education should not only be for Gov Palin, but for most of Republican office holders. It is so frustrating that Republicans can not succinctly argue about “conservative” economic philosophy. Why can’t Sen McCain explain that there are other drags on our economy than just the Wall Street Idiots or the Scum Mortgage Opportunists? We as a country, have put so many restrictions on our economy that a blow like the one we have witnessed the past few weeks relative to the credit crisis, is devastating.
    Why can’t Sen McCain explain that a higher tax rate for upper income earners hurts those trying to make a higher income, not the rich folk that already have accumulated their wealth and if necessary, can wait out a bad economy in a bunker, because of the resources they already have.
    Why can’t the Republican Congressional Leadership explain that our energy policy that keeps us from affordable energy by not allowing off shore drilling for so long or no drilling in an insignificant sized portion of ANWAR, thereby shipping our dollars overseas is a drag on our economy?
    The situation we find ourselves in now took a long time to arrive, but arrived because so many office holders (and that includes complacent Republican office holders) put so many restrictions on living, earning and building wealth, that these policies are now are sinking us, and because we have candidates that are not sufficiently educated enough to explain to voters their positions, we are faced with someone who will move to implement socialist policies that will inhibit us from providing for ourselves and our loved ones. A sad situation we find ourselves in.
    So not only does Gov Palin need to continue her political philosophy education, but so does the rest of the lot.

    Comment by HCN — October 16, 2008 @ 5:36 pm - October 16, 2008

  5. [...] Is Palin Reagan? Is Obama? [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » The Coming Conservative Renaissance — October 16, 2008 @ 5:56 pm - October 16, 2008

  6. But, the people need leadership now. The years you want her to spend “working out ideas”….I’m afraid by that time it’ll be too late.

    Leadership comes in many forms. Palin’s quick rise was dictated by necessity, and the urgent ethics reforms badly needed in Alaska, without a moment to spare.

    Reagan had the luxury of a little more time, and issues not as dire and urgent. The Cold War simply wasn’t as deadly as Terrorism.

    The fact that Palin works quickly and was able to get a pipeline up and running in less than 2 years —says it all.

    Contrast that with Obama stating at last night’s debate, that it takes “ten years” for energy independence.

    We need Palin’s quick and swift action now. Effective leadership is a lot more than going to seminars and salons, and high-falutin’ verbiage. (Not that I don’t appreciate those things).

    Palin has wonderful instincts and a populist way of communicating and actually getting things done, and it would be ashame to make the American people wait until she polishes and refines her technique to an ultra-advanced Ronald Reagan level, which he had years to hone.

    We just don’t have the luxury of that much time, anymore.

    Comment by Christopher — October 16, 2008 @ 6:08 pm - October 16, 2008

  7. No, and definitely not.

    There is, and only will be, one Reagan.

    Comment by sonicfrog — October 16, 2008 @ 8:03 pm - October 16, 2008

  8. I agree there is one and only one Reagan but I say there is one and only one Palin and let Palin be Palin and I pray and hope that Palin becomes the President in 2012….

    we will need Palin in 2012 to be elected President as much as we needed Reagan to be elected President in 1980…..if not more so after 4 years of The Marxist in Chief.

    I shudder at that thought no less 8 years of Hell of The Marxist in Chief.

    Comment by Rocket — October 16, 2008 @ 9:26 pm - October 16, 2008

  9. “The fact that Palin works quickly and was able to get a pipeline up and running in less than 2 years —says it all.”

    Ummm…I hate to break it to you, but there hasn’t even been a groundbreaking for that pipeline yet. It doesn’t exist and will likely never be built. But go ahead and promote her fake accomplishments, because that’s pretty much all she has.

    Comment by William E. Canning — October 17, 2008 @ 12:33 am - October 17, 2008

  10. William is correct. Not one foot of pipe has been laid to ground.

    Maybe in four year Palin will have added more real accomplishments to her resume. Right now too many of the things she is known to have done are exaggerations, if not flat out falsehoods.

    This is my last post I will be writing on my blog about Sarah Palin, unless something really interesting come out between now and election day.

    PS. Please note – in my critique, I cite mostly neutral or conservative sources, and include none of the stupid crap about her family – that stuff to me does not matter one wit regarding her fitness for office.

    Comment by sonicfrog — October 17, 2008 @ 1:17 am - October 17, 2008

  11. Sonicfrog, quick note to say you’ve been an excellent addition to this blog: strong writer and you cite objective sources. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by JR — October 17, 2008 @ 10:05 am - October 17, 2008

  12. [...] I beileve she has many of the qualities (i.e., natural gifts) of Ronald Reagan, she has, as I’ve noted before, not yet come close to realizing her potential. Jon seems to agree: At least, not right now. [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Sarah Palin’s Reaganite Potential — October 24, 2008 @ 7:30 am - October 24, 2008

  13. [...] he had when, in 1968, he launched his first bid for the White.  I believe that (as I expressed in these posts) if she applies herself, she has it within her to become his equivalent as a leader.  [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » My nutshell position on Sarah Palin — October 26, 2008 @ 1:18 pm - October 26, 2008

  14. [...] more than uplifting rhetoric, Sarah Palin has learned the same thing. Now, as I’ve said before, she just needs to complete her conservative [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Do Palin-hating conservatives understand the grassroots? — July 10, 2009 @ 1:04 pm - July 10, 2009

  15. [...] Is Palin Reagan? Is Obama? [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Sarah Palin has yet to assume the Gipper’s Mantle — July 10, 2009 @ 1:39 pm - July 10, 2009

  16. [...] needed a new Reagan. Michael Reagan referred to Palin as “my dad reborn,” and even Gay Patriot’s thoughtful piece on the differences between Palin and Obama used Reagan as the gold standard, without questioning [...]

    Pingback by Evangelical Outpost » Blog Archive » Do We Need A New Reagan? — August 12, 2009 @ 8:00 pm - August 12, 2009

  17. [...] poltical prominence.  Obama’s 2004 address to the Democratic National Convention was “cotton candy,” a paean to the idea of e plurbus unum.  The Gipper’s speech in 1964 on behalf of [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Obama is no Reagan:His is a Personal Narrative, the Gipper’s, Philosophical — November 24, 2009 @ 6:00 pm - November 24, 2009

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