In Memoriam: Ronald W. Reagan

Ronald Reagan, who died on Saturday, was the greatest American president of the twentieth century.

His success was so total that the two parallel crises that brought him to power—the Cold War and inflation—are now discounted and forgotten. 

In their place, the U.S. and the Western world face a new generation of problems. Most important, from the perspective of VDARE.COM, is mass immigration and its impact on the National Question—whether the U.S. (or any of the great polities of the West) can survive as a nation-state, the political expression of a particular people.

Reagan had relatively little to say about immigration, and that little is disputed. This is not surprising. Modern mass immigration was unleashed in the U.S. by the 1965 Immigration Act, part of the Johnson Administration`s “Great Society” legislative spasm. Reagan had already established himself a national figure because of his achievements as a spokesman for Barry Goldwater, Johnson`s defeated Republican opponent.  In the nature of things, a new generation of problems requires a new generation of politicians to recognize and resolve them.

Nevertheless, Reagan did make this definitive comment on illegal immigration while he was president:

“This country has lost control of its borders. And no country can sustain that kind of position.”

He didn`t solve the problem, of course—as he failed to solve, or even address, other new problems, notably the rapidly-metastasizing curse of affirmative action quotas. But, as a humble foot soldier in the American conservative movement (beginning with John Ashbrook vs. Nixon in 1972!), I never had any doubt where Reagan`s heart was.

I didn`t have any doubt about the endless battalions of Bushes either. I still don`t.

In the end, Reagan`s real political legacy was not substance but style – form rather than content. For politicians, as for artists, this is an important distinction. Long after time has rendered the policies that Reagan favored not merely obsolete but even incomprehensible, the manner in which he chose them will be remembered. What this means in his case was farsightedness and courage.

We will be hearing endlessly about his congeniality, optimism, funniness etc. I say bunk to this.

Reagan was a ferocious conservative ideologue in the 1960s at a time when it meant upsetting people who were comfortable with the conventional liberalism (and they got really upset). And also when it meant being pessimistic about things like the intentions of the Soviet Union and the efficacy of price controls, about which everyone desperately, and hysterically, wanted to believe the best.

Reagan was a fighter where the Bushes are appeasers—not withstanding the fact that he withdrew from Lebanon, whereas they twice embroiled the U.S. in Iraq.

Reagan`s courage was intellectual and moral. That is why I am confident he would be among those of us who challenge the entrenched interests pushing nation-breaking mass immigration, and the conventional and cowardly who don`t want to think about the issue at all.