Ronald Reagan died today at the age of 93. He earned the enmity of many of us on the left through his dismantling of the New Deal and enabling of a culture of greed -- but we should not forget that he was once one of us, an FDR Democrat. His journey to the far right mirrored a similar, if less dramatic, shift that occured in the general American psyche. And while Reagan cannot be excused for his utter failure as president, we must never see him solely as a symbol of a shameful era -- because his rise was attributable in part to an inertia and lack of vision that gripped our predecessors on the left. It was in part our inability to satisfy the hunger of Americans for positive leadership that caused Reagan and other former liberals to embrace a radical ideology that was before only espoused by crackpots and the prophets of selfishness.
So while we rightly condemned Reagan for his extremism and hostility to the egalitarian ideals of his youth, perhaps we should take this occasion not only to remember Reagan's failings, but also to reflect upon the failings of the left that allowed the ascension of the extreme right. We've learned a lot about how to talk with the American people over the past few years, and we've reclaimed the fighting spirit that has characterized the best of the left through American history -- let's never again allow ourselves to become so self-satisfied that we allow another Reagan to capture the hearts of everyday Americans. And let us remember that in spite of his many faults, he was a human being, and his family is entitled to an appropriate level of decorum in their time of loss.
:And let's ensure that the same Republican machine that cried about supposedly untoward politicization of the Paul Wellstone memorial service doesn't use Reagan's passing as an excuse to play politics. I mean, we know that they'd never
do that, but . . .
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