The forthcoming issue of the Claremont Review of Books leads off with editor Charles Kesler’s meditation on the meaning of Reagan’s optimism: “For the Gipper.” Kesler breathes new life into this tired theme:
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.
Don’t miss this one.