No Guarantee of Lasting Change

No Guarantee of Lasting Change - charges that conservatism...

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No Guarantee of Lasting Change Still, Reagan's successes cannot be explained away as nothing more than the product of good timing. Potentially transformative moments in history don't automatically lead to profound change. Presidents Richard Nixon (1969-74) and Jimmy Carter (1977-81) both took office in circumstances similar to those that faced Reagan, but neither Nixon nor Carter possessed either the personal charisma or the compelling ideological vision to realign American politics like Reagan did. Ronald Reagan, unlike Nixon and Carter, possessed the political gifts to seize his moment of opportunity by changing, definitively, the course of American history. Old Conservatism = New Populism Reagan's lasting legacy was to recast traditional American conservatism—which had been a minority viewpoint throughout the middle decades of the twentieth century—as a new mainstream populism for the contemporary era. The first key to Reagan's success was his genial personality; the president's sunny disposition and optimistic outlook did much to deflect liberal
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Unformatted text preview: charges that conservatism was a philosophy of callous meanness and reckless militarism. The second key to Reagan's success was his ability to distill complex ideological positions into simple aphorisms that sounded like common sense: "Government is not the solution to our problem," Reagan declared in his first inaugural address . "Government is the problem." 9 This was merely the first and most famous of the many Reaganite assertions that have since become widely shared American assumptions about how the world works: Government is the problem. The free market solves problems better than politicians can. Lower taxes create economic growth. Welfare perpetuates poverty. Peace is only attainable through military strength. America is always a force for good in the world, its enemies an "Evil Empire." These are the core assumptions of the Reagan Revolution; these are the core assumptions that continue to shape our world....
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