Today marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of Ronald Reagan. His daughter, Patti Davis, reflects upon the man who was her father and why, after all the struggle and heartache, she could not help but love him. I think it is always wise to listen to the reflections of a daughter upon the character of her father. For one thing, there are few people in this life who have more of an interest in understanding the character of a man than his daughter. So she’s been at the job for a long time, had better access to him and--though she admits to willful misunderstanding in the past--seems to be coming to a deeper, better, and more mature understanding of him now. Of course, there is a temptation on her part to wish to see him rediscovered as the ultimate and true liberal in her understanding of the term. If we’re using a small "l," I think I’d give her that.
She’s right that the man she knew could not possibly be the caricature painted by his political enemies--the racist and the heartless man they said he was. But you can see from this piece that she is still struggling to circle the square--to make his politics fit with the character of the man she loved. They do . . . but she doesn’t quite see how, so instead she dismisses them and talks instead of attitudes in politics and graciousness and demeanor and just "being nice." It’s a start.
Of course, in America, being a true "liberal" means you’re actually a conservative. What is it that we’re trying to conserve, after all? We are trying to conserve the ideas of Revolution . . . and it’s no accident that people talked of a "Reagan Revolution." Perhaps one day Patti will come to see that as well. And perhaps not. No matter. She gives us a beautiful reflection on the soul of the man and, though (perhaps) she misses the larger picture, she is not wrong about his good nature and his inability to be "mean." We do miss that. We ought, always, to do our best to imitate it and so honor the man who deserves our admiration and respect. Rest in peace, Ronald Reagan.