Paul Kengor: The End of the Reagan Era?

Roundup: Talking About History

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. 

Barack Obama’s re-christening has arrived. It commenced with a small private ceremony January 20, Sunday — God’s day. The actual festivities, with the inaugural address and the grandstand and mass liberal adulation and veneration, occur Monday, January 21. For those angry liberals who urged Obama to banish the Almighty from the inaugural, they can take solace in the public ceremony (traditionally held on January 20) not occurring on the Christian holy day.
Alas, with Obama’s re-coronation, liberals are glorying in an altogether new epoch, one of supreme significance to their ideological resurgence: the end of the Reagan era. They’ve desired it for decades, and you can feel it, see it, smell it at their websites and blogs. One recent book carries the breathless title, Barack Obama’s America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era.
Sadly, I must admit, as a Reagan scholar and admirer, that they are largely correct. Obama’s reelection does, to a notable degree, end the Reagan era. We are now in the snares of a despairing period of left-wing ascendance, marked by gay marriage, forced taxpayer funding of abortion, an exploding government class, and, generally big government. As to the latter, Ronald Reagan had declared in his first inaugural: “government is not the solution … government is the problem.” The first Democrat to follow Reagan, Bill Clinton, had similarly stated “the era of big government is over.” Clinton’s affirmation was also affirmation of the continuation of the Reagan era.
And then came Barack Obama. Just days after his 2009 inauguration, Obama smashed the Reagan mantle, proclaiming: “the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs.”
Yes, “only government.” Obama had repudiated Reagan, and the electorate would again reward him four years later. What Obama called for 2009 seems to be the new American spirit in 2013.
But is it? Well, the answer is complicated...

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