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Scholar Rehearses Reagan Principles

By    |   Monday, 03 March 2014 02:43 PM

Grove City College Professor Paul Kengor presented his book 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Kengor is executive director of the Center for Vision and Values, and he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

For some readers, this will be an introduction to Grove City College, a Christian liberal arts college 65 miles north of Pittsburgh that is well known in conservative circles and famous for its policy of refusing to participate in federal student aid programs. Among its notable faculty was Hans Sennholz (1922-2007), the first student of Ludwig von Vises in the United States and a frequent lecturer at programs attended by conservative students such as me.

In his introduction, Kengor set forth the reasons why Reagan remains a figure of great interest, garnering more 30 million Google hits and breaking all records for electoral success and popularity, retaining the highest popularity among post-war presidents since Eisenhower and scoring near the very top in a Time survey of greatest Americans.

Kengor led his audience on something of a wild goose chase if they seek to find an actual list of the 11 Principles, advising viewers that it is in the book and they can rewind the tape. However, he was careful to say that there is nothing special about the number 11 in this instance, it just happens to be the number he compiled from studying Reagan's speeches and policies.

Among the principles are freedom, faith, family, American exceptionalism, sanctity of human life, peace through strength, anticommunism and belief in the individual, belief in the vision and wisdom of the Founders, as well as low taxes. Kengor was at his best in explaining the origin and course of the graduated income tax over the hundred years since it was enacted, typing it to Marx's platform dating back to 1848. Another tidbit one discovers is that during Reagan's years as a lifeguard in Illinois, he saved a total of 77 lives.

The professor and I have much different perspectives on Reagan due to our much different vantage points. Kengor was 14 when Reagan was elected, whereas I was working on Capitol Hill and participated as a staffer for members of Congress who were looking forward to establishing a fruitful relationship with the new administration. In the end, Reagan developed a fond working relationship with House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and House Republicans were largely left behind.

Kengor noted with satisfaction that in his first race, Reagan carried 44 of 50 states and then in his re-election race won every state except for Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota. For one who had grown up as an admirer of Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Milton Friedman, the landslide elections seemed to offer the promise of some sort of "Reagan Revolution." It never happened, and both supporters and other observers were soon shocked at the pace of spending racked up in the name of a president who ran against the evils of big government.

From a historical perspective, the Reagan years might be known for the phenomenon of the "Reagan Democrat," as centrist Democrats fled the "malaise" of Jimmy Carter.

Subsequently, Republicans experienced their own "malaise" under George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton learned how to bring the centrist Democrats back to the fold with Reagan-like rhetoric such as "The era of Big Government is over."

The significance of the Reagan years are bound to be a subject of vigorous debate as the GOP hurtles toward the elections of 2014 and 2016.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Grove City College Professor Paul Kengor presented his book 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Monday, 03 March 2014 02:43 PM
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