Reagan as Liberal Hero


The Washington Monthly is rerunning Joshua Green's thoughtful and provocative 2003 essay that declares Ronald Reagan a liberal in an Adam Smith tie. Comparing the Reagan presented in a series of recent conservative biographies, Green concludes:

The real Reagan…would bring discord to the current conservative agenda. If you believe, as conservatives now do, that raising taxes is always wrong, then it's hard to admit that Reagan himself did so repeatedly. If you argue that the relative tax burden on low-income workers is too light, as the Bush administration does, then it does not pay to dwell on the fact that Reagan himself helped lighten that burden. If you insist, as many hardliners now do, that America is dangerously soft on communist China, then it is best to ignore Reagan's own softening toward the Soviet Union. As with other conservative media efforts–Rush Limbaugh, Fox News Channel, The Washington Times–the purpose of the Reagan legacy project is not to deliver accuracy, but enhance political leverage.

But, as Reagan himself liked to cite from John Adams, facts are stubborn things. And the fact is that Reagan, whether out of wisdom or because he was forced, made significant compromises with the left. Had he not saved Social Security, relented on his tax cut, and negotiated with the Soviets, he'd have been a less popular, and lesser, president. An honest portrait of Reagan's presidency would not diminish his memory, but enlarge it.

Whole thing here.