Reflections on Ronald Reagan

As you may know, today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. February 6th is also my birthday, and when I was a kid I was naturally a big fan of the President.  When Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, I played him in a school debate and distinctly remember explaining supply-side economics by doing a hand motion as I said that cutting tax rates would raise more revenue. Indeed, I’d say that I think of myself as a conservative because of him, though readers of the blog know that my views are kind of quirky.

What was his secret?  As a historian, I can see that Reagan flip-flopped and compromised about as much as any politician.  Maybe he just came along at the right time — leaders are a product of circumstance to a large extent (Winston Churchill would not be the right guy to be Prime Minister today).

In Reagan’s case, there is an easy way to think about that question.  Suppose John Hinckley had succeeded.  In that case,  George H.W. Bush would have become President in 1981.  Do you think that the 1980s would have turned out in largely the same way in that scenario?  I sure don’t.

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