Who Is Reagan's Heir?
Conservatives have been waiting since 1988 for the real successor to the legacy of Ronald Reagan, yet the Republican Establishment has been running away from that unabashedly conservative presidency since George H. Bush promised, almost as soon as he was sworn into office, "A kinder and gentler nation."
In the last ninety years, in the years since Calvin Coolidge left office, Republicans have nominated precisely two conservatives, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. It has been more than three decades since Republicans nominated Reagan for his second term. Goldwater lost, while Reagan won.
Conservatives have been looking for a candidate of true conviction who can win. What made Reagan the magnificent candidate and president that he was? More to the point, is there anyone on the stage of politics today who might be the heir to Reagan?
Reagan was a great professional success long before he entered politics, and that was an important part of his strength. Politics was not his life, and that fact was a major part of his success in politics. Who is already, before politics, a success?
Reagan was a man of God. He did not propound religion so much as he rooted his values in a Blessed Creator, a sort of ecumenical godliness that was not preachy but profound nonetheless. This was the steady and sure foundation that allowed Reagan with a bullet near his heart to gently joke with doctors before they worked to save his life. Is there anyone who seems to have this comfortable and sure relationship with God?
Reagan was a profoundly likeable man as well. The left went mad trying to make this profoundly good man seem evil. Nothing worked, and when Reagan died, Americans waited in long lines across America for the chance to have a few brief moments by the casket of this man who had been out of office for a quarter of a century – a virtually unprecedented show of love for one who had loved Americans so much. Who is that likeable in the Republican race today?
Reagan also spoke differently from the standard variety of politician. His haters spoke of "The Voice," as if it was a diabolical manifestation of control over the masses. Reagan's voice, in fact, was something very different. Reagan spoke very clearly. He spoke slowly, in unrushed and plain language. Who talks like that in the Republican field?
Dr. Ben Carson resembles Reagan in those four ways. Dr. Carson does not need a political career to cap his life's ambition. Dr. Carson has also stated eloquently how God, if not particular religious dogma, is very important to him. Ben Carson's life, like Ronald Reagan's life, is clearly dedicated to something higher than even the White House – and that ought to make us feel very good.
Indeed, nearly everything about Dr. Ben Carson makes us feel good. The doctor is also as likeable a candidate for the White House as America has seen since Reagan. The contrast in likeability between Carson and Hillary is as wide as the Grand Canyon, but even among other Republican candidates, Carson is very likeable.
Finally, Dr. Ben Carson talks less like a slick politician trying to score poll-tested talking points than like a man who has calmly talked with parents whose children are facing very scary surgery as he tells them what he intends to do and why they ought to trust him. Carson, like Reagan, talks as if the words he is saying matter, and as if it matters to him if his listeners really understand him. Anyone who listens to Dr. Carson talk cannot help but hear the contrast in tone, in substance, and in content between him and the sort of politicians who so trouble Americans today.
The attention that Carson has gotten so far is doubtless in part because he is black, but that may be rightly moved into the background if Dr. Carson is seen by conservatives and by Americans as what he may well turn out to be: Reagan's heir.