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Aurora

Political winds shift, but history has own compass



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November 10, 2010 | 08:04 AM
We expect more from our leaders than they can deliver.

Last week's election was a rebuke of President Barack Obama more than a victory for the Republicans. And the one before that was a rebuke of the Republicans. We're always trying on a new pair of pants to see if they fit better.

As far as leaders go, Ronald Reagan is the darling of the right and someone I also admire for his leadership abilities at least.

He pulled off leadership better than any modern president except maybe FDR. Reagan seemed in control. He lived by a guiding sense of principals. He appeared humble and confident at the same time. We trusted him. We saw him as one of us, but better. Even those who had problems with Reagan's politics had a hard time disliking him.

But Reagan was an actor, as are all politicians, only Reagan was better at it than most.

He fooled us without really trying because he believed his script. He portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative but by the end of his administration he had built up one of the largest deficits ever up to that time. It was a good enough acting job that the Reaganites still believe his economics worked. Those around him covered up the fact that he was out of touch much of the time — afternoon naps, watching old movies with Nancy at night, so out of touch that he needed index cards to remember the fine points of his own policies. Right or wrong, he saw the president as chairman of the board, letting others play the instruments as he set the tone.

Reagan pulled it off, and I give him points for that. I voted for him once and if someone with those leadership capabilities came around again, I might vote for that person, too.

Reagan pulled it off because he believed in himself, his image, his dream and the American dream. The boy turned lifeguard believed in the hero we all try to believe in, the admirable, brave, competent leader we all want.

Based on last week's election, Obama hasn't sold people on his leadership style, at least not yet. One of the wisest things he's said about himself is that people paint him the way they want him to be. That's why the haters hate him. That's why the lovers are disappointed he hasn't done more; they wanted a hero and they only found a man.

If history is the guide, a year from now, the shift back to the left will have started; two years from now maybe Obama will be given another chance because people will have realized the Republicans aren't the leadership heroes they were looking for either. Or maybe the Tea Party will be given a shot. Or, more likely, their time will have come and gone like it has for the Kennedy liberals, the John Anderson/Ross Perot independents, and the Moral Majority.

What we forget is that there are heroes out there all the time and that the world, as a whole, has moved toward more inclusiveness, more democracy, more transparency even if it takes a step back here and there. History moves on no matter who we vote into office. It folds back and forth, yet it inches ahead in ways we don't recognize in the midst of an election. Only in retrospect, when we read the sands of time, the historic record, does movement seem apparent.

Democracy was only an idea until a few hundred years ago. There was a time not so long ago in the United States when there was mainstream debate over whether women and minorities deserved equal rights. And, like it or not, the all-encompassing media has made it more and more difficult to keep a secret.

For Democrats, I say this is not the end of the world. But don't let your anger make you believe you have all the answers. For Republicans, I say don't think you've built an empire to last the ages, and don't think you have all the answers either.

Time will tell. It always has.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.

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