Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

One more for the Gipper

Charles R. Kesler writes an op-ed sized essay for the Gipper. The whole is well crafted and worth reading, but note these three paragraphs especially:

"Optimism is often distrusted by conservatives, and for good reason. It’s not a virtue but a temperament, and liberal pragmatists from John Dewey to Richard Rorty for years have tried to reduce all philosophical disagreements to matters of temperament. That’s a smug way of silencing dissent and protecting the liberal establishment, of course, and Ronald Reagan would have none of it. He liked a good argument, and preferred to uphold a banner of "bold colors, not pale pastels." What’s more, there’s a certain contempt hiding in the media’s celebration of his optimism, as though he were a right-wing Forrest Gump, for whom life was always one big box of chocolates.

Nonetheless, Reagan was on to something. Long ago, Aristotle pointed out that cowards are pessimists, because they fear everything. A courageous man, by contrast, is confident, and confidence breeds a sanguine disposition. In other words, true optimism is the shadow of excellence, and particularly of courage. Reagan was optimistic not out of random temperament but out of confidence in his own character. He was hopeful about America because of his confidence in the American people’s character.

Reagan’s optimism is rarer than the counterfeit kind, based on a sham form of courage and typified by the person who believes, based on experience, that he will always win. For much of the past century, this was the liberals’ optimism, the false belief that history must be on their side because so far they had progressed from victory to victory. Drunks often feel a similar kind of exhilaration. The Communists, drunk on their own Marxist moonshine, elevated historical determinism into an official article of faith. But in the course of a single decade, by making them taste political, economic, and military defeat, Ronald Reagan sobered up millions of men and women who had been ideologically intoxicated."  

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