Ronald Reagan: Father of the Tea Party

Ronald Reagan: Father of the Tea Party

-By Warner Todd Huston

We are still living in Ronald Reagan’s era, despite the constant refrains from Democrats and the left that Reaganism is long dead. As we observe his 100th birthday, it is also beneficial to point out that in many ways Reagan is the father of the Tea Party Movement. It was his great success, his sunny optimism that gave the Tea Partiers the grounding and confidence that they could, indeed, make a difference.

Like many politically active people today, Ronald Reagan is my favorite president in my lifetime. For me, he was also the first president for whom I could vote and I did so with glee.

In fact, if it weren’t for Ronald Reagan I may well have entered my voting age with too much cynicism to overcome in order to make me feel invested in the system. I’d posit that this is true for most Tea Party patriots older than 40, too. I would also argue that the Reagan effect is responsible for giving Tea Partiers the feeling that they could affect government like Reagan did and that without Reagan there’d be no Tea Party movement at all. You see as a teen growing up in the 1970s cynicism about America is about all one could muster. As kids we lived through the end of the Vietnam War, saw the Fall of Saigon, endured Watergate, the end of the Nixon presidency, saw the media turn his successor into a pratfalling, buffoon, suffered under the “malaise” of Jimmy Carter and ended the era humiliated as a bunch of Islamic lunatics took Americans hostage for 444 days.

In the meantime, all our entertainment on TV, at the Movies, in our music we were basically told how bad America was. Our government was sending spies to kill people on movies and TV, riots and protests abounded in our recent memory, America was racist, violent, nasty, our teachers were completely sold out to the far left and reinforced the meme that America was evil in our high schools and colleges. It was a pretty dismal America in which we lived.

Many conservatives got a boost with Goldwater decades earlier in the 60s, but his conservatism was so narrow and his loss so crushing that few imagined that the GOP would ever rise above it. Reagan himself seemed a bit of a failure after trying and failing to become the GOP nominee for president once in 1968 and then again in 1976.

It seemed like America’s best days were long behind her. Anyone that wanted to believe in America was doomed to feel cynical about it all.

As to me, I was no exception. In the 70s I was myself on the verge of thinking that America was irreversibly broken. I even passed on joining the armed forces at the time because I couldn’t imagine serving under the hated Carter regime. Service to the country was not appealing.

But then came the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan and it was “morning in America” again. He ran as a believer in American exceptionalism even as so many were convinced that such a feeling was simple-minded even imbecilic. Reagan made us believe in America again. In fact, that is the one thing that he told people that he wanted to be remembered for.

Bently Elliott was Reagan’s top speechwriter in his first term and recalled Reagan’s words to that effect.

“He didn’t say he wanted to be remembered as the president who turned around the economy or the president who brought down the Evil Empire,” Elliott recalled. “He said he wanted to be remembered as ‘the president who made the American people believe in themselves again.'”

Ronald Reagan believed in America and he made us believe in her, too.

This is the essence of the Tea Party movement. Reagan proved that we could again be a great, healthy, rich, vibrant nation, one not mired in a “malaise,” one not afraid to speak on the world stage, one proud of itself and its place in the world. This optimism and Reagan’s success as president serves as the underlying proof that what the Tea Party is trying to do is not only right, but can actually work.

The Tea Party has its cynicism, of course. Many Tea Partiers eye government with suspicion (another Reagan theme, by the way). But thanks to Ronald Reagan Tea Partiers have the confidence that they can succeed, just like he did.

Without his great success there may not have been enough pride left in America to spawn a Tea Party movement. So, as we celebrate his 100th birthday, let’s not just fondly recall his legacy. Let’s celebrate the fact that we are still benefiting from his genius, not from a distance, not from the dimness of time gone by, but right here, right now.

Happy birthday Ronald Reagan. May your shadow be long and our fortune due to that legacy ever greater

(Originally posted at Andrew Breitbar’s


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  • "He signed a bill that gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants. He grew the size of the federal government and the budget, added a whole new cabinet level agency and added tens of thousands of government workers to the federal payroll.

    "He tripled the deficit. He bailed out and expanded social security with a big fat tax increase. He raised corporate taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars. He raised taxes on gasoline.

    "He, in fact, signed into law the largest tax increase in history. He supported federal handgun controls. He called for a world without nuclear weapons.

    "He was Ronald Reagan."


    In his first term, Reagan raised taxes when unemployment was nearing 11% -- imagine trying this today -- and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. It's a fact that's terribly inconvenient on a day like today, but "no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people" as Reagan.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Reagan "would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."

  • In reply to Salrock:

    And, so??

    If JFK were running today the Democrats would never elect him, either. So what?

  • In reply to Salrock:

    Wow, you Teabaggers are something else. You forgot to mention how he was a criminal. Remember Iran-Contra? He broke the law and lied to America. Poverty grew exponentially under Reagan's trickle-down economy. Not to mention he failed to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic until it was far too late. I love the argument of American Exceptionalism - just what is so exceptional? Our declining education rank and rising infant mortality rates? That must be the Dems fault. Plus you forgot that the idea of American Exceptionalism comes from the Communist Party. Oops, I said a bad word. I'll stop now.

  • In reply to blap79:

    "Criminals" have convictions, moron. What was Reagan convicted of? I'll help you out... NOTHING! So, once again, all you left-wingers have is wild-eyed hyperbole. Booooooring.

  • In reply to publiusforum:

    Face it, you're a dying breed. Old white guys like you will soon be the minority. That's why it is called "progression." You probably don't believe in evolution either.

  • In reply to blap79:

    You say that after the GOP won the biggest election win in 70 years?? You truly are an idiot.

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