Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
Reagan used his first inaugural to make an unabashed case for conservatism. Conservatives who loved that Reagan speech are now criticizing Obama for emulating their hero and his bold defense of first principles.
And like Reagan, Obama seeks to enact his program not by getting the opposition party’s leaders to support him but by winning over a minority of the less doctrinaire Republicans — especially representatives from the Northeast, West Coast and parts of the Midwest who sense where the political winds in their regions are blowing.
The relationship of Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill is often misrepresented. The Gipper and Tip got along okay, but that’s not how Reagan got most of his bills passed. O’Neill opposed most of what Reagan wanted. Reagan didn’t let this stop him, and the media at the time didn’t condemn Reagan for failing to negotiate O’Neill’s stamp of approval. Instead, Reagan pushed his measures through with the support of a minority of Democrats, most of them conservatives and moderates from the South, who knew their part of the country was moving Reagan’s way.
...Republicans in Congress now, like Democrats in the Reagan years, are coming to terms with a country that wants to move in a new direction. Like Tip O’Neill, Speaker John Boehner is having trouble holding his troops together.
Reagan forced Democrats to realize they wouldn’t keep winning simply by invoking FDR’s legacy. Paradoxically, in following Reagan’s political lead, Obama is setting out to prove that the Reagan era is finally over.
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