Good stuff from AEI’s Henry Olsen in today’s WSJ:
What Would Reagan Do?
This is not the first time that conservatives and Republicans have stared into an electoral abyss. After Barry Goldwater’s crushing 1964 defeat, most political observers thought the only future for the GOP was to become a centrist party only slightly to the right of Great Society Democrats.
Ronald Reagan didn’t agree. In a trenchant column penned in the Dec. 1, 1964 issue of National Review, he argued that Americans had rejected only a false vision of conservatism as a radical departure from the status quo. Conservatives, he said, had only “lost a battle in the continuing war for freedom.” Voters would rally to the conservative banner once they realized that Democratic liberals were the true radicals.
His article is striking for what he said — and didn’t say. Reagan spoke of a “war for freedom,” but he did not mention a single specific conservative policy. Rather, he defended conservatism’s salience by arguing that “we represent the forgotten American — that simple soul who goes to work, bucks for a raise, takes out insurance, pays for his kids’ schooling, contributes to his church and charity and knows there just ‘ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’”
The rest here.