Ronald Reagan’s enduring reputation as an optimist was established in his Morning in America campaign in 1984. He was running then as the incumbent. Maybe, our memories have played tricks on us: the Goldwater-Reagan-Gingrich-Tea Party-populist conservative movements actually got launched by the fierce urgency of fear.
Kate Zernike’s story on Senator Richard Lugar’s primary challenge in Indiana is telling:
“He leans to the other side too much,” said Katelyn Burk, 20, who had come to hear Mr. Lugar in Brazil, wearing a Mourdock (Republican primary opponent) sticker on her shirt. “You can’t reach across the aisle. You’ve got to stick to your guns.”
She was unimpressed by his experience. “We’re in a crisis,” she said. “We need new people. Obviously, stability is not working.”
Ms. Burke is 20—what does she know?
She has never been betrayed personally by a mainstream Republican before. But, certainly people she believes in believe otherwise.
Zernike’s story runs with the headline “Running on Moderation in Immoderate Times.” It sacrifices precision for alliteration. Lugar’s moderation doesn’t come across as that objectionable. It’s his optimistic premise:
“These things are cyclical, there are some years that are happier than others,” he said. “I’m optimistic that as our economy improves, as our foreign policy situation improves, that we’re going to have a different attitude in the Senate. We’re going to have more opportunity for progress. I want to be around for that.”
The problem may be: the problems that moderates have been calling “manageable” have not been managed for so long that only extreme talk starts to sound true.