Perhaps because I used to listen regularly to Peggy Noonan’s reading of her memoir, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (when in law school I drove back and forth between Washington and Charlottesville), I was not surprised last night to hear her speak in the voice in which she writes.
Speaking at the Reagan Library, she offered our party sage advice in a distinctly feminine voice, much as the goddess Athena spoke to the Greek heroes.
She began by praising the Gipper, calling him the “last great gentleman,” how he spoke softly and treated his staff like equals and not the help (which, she claimed, they were). And, as I related last night, she praised his lady, saying that Nancy is not “appreciated and celebrated enough.” It’s the thing that strikes you when you read his writings and visit his home, how central his wife was to Ronald Reagan’s life.
Perhaps, we all need a solid source of human affection if we’re to achieve any success in this world. And that we men (even gay men) keenly feel the impact of a nurturing feminine presence in our lives. The most successful of us all do seem to have developed strong friendships with women.
But, I digress.
Peggy believes we conservatives are more fortunate to have the Gipper “to look back to” than the Democrats are in having FDR. That Democrat, she claimed, did not spend a lot of time thinking about his philosophy: “he was in the greatness game; he wanted to run things.” (Sounds like some other Democrats we know.) Reagan, by contrast, spent years developing a philosophy which we all well knew: “You don’t want more government than you need.”
And the Gipper could explain his own candidacy for the highest office in the land far better than could the man he backed in the 1964 presidential contest, Barry Goldwater. (Sounds like another Republican presidential candidate from Arizona.)
For the GOP to rebuild, we must hold “realistically to Reaganesque principles” and apply them to the concerns of the 21st century.She cited health care as example.
Noting the growing consensus for health care reform, she said the GOP needs address the issue by providing reforms consistent with Republicans principles. To that end, I trust she should be pleased with the Alternative to Obamacare that Senators Tom Coburn and Richard Burr have introduced together with Reprsentatives Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes. Let’s hope these good men do a better job promoting their proposal than our party’s nominee did defending his (which offered many of the same reforms they do) in last fall’s campaign.
Peggy also reminded us that the Gipper was also a “practical politician.” He wouldn’t want us to “withdraw into a cocoon, insisting on purism.” An easygoing man, he wanted to expand his conservative coalition, inviting everyone in. “He couldn’t shake his fist in your face because he was [using it]* to shake yours.”
In short, she said, we should be a big tent, a tent held up by a number of poles.
Perhaps, I liked her speech so much because I so delight in her voice (in both sense of the term, its sound and her manner of speaking/writing) and because I agree with her basic point that we need apply Ronald Reagan’s vision, his trust in individuals and his skepticism of government, to contemporary problems. On domestic issues at least, George W. Bush lost sight of such principles and that’s why Ronald Reagan’s party lost power.
*Busy scribbling notes, I was unable to accurately transcribe this wonderful quote. She may have said that “he couldn’t shake his fast in your face because he was reaching his hand out to you, welcoming you” or something similar.