Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The Cultural Legacy of Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan's presidency remains a hugely sensitive topic in American politics; to the Republicans he was the ideal, an excellent communicator, a genius economist, but to many Democrats and Liberals he was the perfect example of a president who failed to help the toiling working class and homeless, who not only failed to tackle the crack epidemic that ruined many of America's largest cities, but, according to some, simply did not care.
As controversial as his scandal laden Presidency was, Republicans still hold a very special place for Reagan in their hearts. In an article I found on USAtoday.com a columnist describes Reagan as 'The Great Communicator' and discusses how his oratory skills meant that even if he wasn't the greatest president ever, he was certainly one of the best of the 20th century. The writer, Chuck Raasch, compares him to all-time great Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also an excellent speaker, and to John Francis Kennedy, the most culturally significant president ever. Raasch therefore implies that regardless of his presidency his ability to communicate meant he was well liked, a 'national grandfather figure' for a lost generation out of work and in need of money.
While I agree that yes, an ability to create memorable speeches and to connect with voters is a key factor in having a successful, good legacy, Chuck Raasch seems to completely ignore the perils of the Reagan administration in favour of painting him as some sort of vibrant Republican cowboy, fresh from the lots of Hollywood to lead America away from the economic misery that dominated the early 80s. He does make reference to the fact that Reagan's approval ratings were not as high as some would imagine, but instead he chalks it up to Americans of the time not realising what a special rarity Reagan was.