Barack Obama acknowledged the immense impact of Ronald Reagan’s policy on the development of the United States several times. This fact, alongside Obama’s ambitious nature and his investment in the progress of American prosperity, is the reason why he is sometimes referred to as “the Reagan of the Left”. In this essay, it is argued that, despite notable similarities between two presidents’ political paths, the comparison of Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan is not accurate.
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Reagan is often called a transformational president, as he not only revived the economy and restored the stature of the presidency but also transformed the political life by shifting the nation towards conservatism1. Although his persona is criticized for the lack of intellect in a formal sense, it is undeniable that his intuition and imagination allowed for a rapid increase in the pace of progress on the U.S. One of the numerous facts that speak in favor of this point of view is that Reagan was the first one to see that liberalism did not have a limiting principle that could help manage some of the inconsistencies within its framework. As a result, Reagan stopped associating himself with the Democratic Party and joined the Right Wing2. The impact of that decision became evident over time because Reagan’s presidency shaped the development of the United States for at least two decades.
Since the brief overview of the influence of Ronald Reagan has been given, it is now time to dwell upon the figure of Barack Obama and his political impact. To begin with, what is genuinely similar between the two presidents is the level of their ambitions. In post-Reagan America, the Democratic Party was, to a certain degree, afraid of bold statements and moves. It is seen in the presidency of Bill Clinton, who was trying to please as many diverse and often conflicting interests as possible3. However, Obama manifested the new way for the Democrats because he aimed for the same kind of reinvention of the political life as Reagan. Another ground for comparison is the fact that Reagan’s bold rhetoric and more cautious governance were referred to by scholars as “populist conservatism”4. Due to his numerous initiatives such as ACA, Barack Obama could also be considered a populist, but a Democratic one.
What is different between the two presidents is their legacy. Although it is slightly premature to make conclusions about Obama’s legacy, the impact thereof could be compared to the one of Reagan. The fundamental argument is that Obama’s presidency could not reinforce the position of the Democratic Party; furthermore, one could say that, by total, the Left side was locked out of power. It could be considered a defeat, especially if one would recall the continuous impact on social and political life caused by Ronald Reagan.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the comparison of Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan is not pointless since they share some common traits as politicians. Nevertheless, their influence on the development of America differs vastly, and this is why referring to Obama as “the Reagan of the Left” is not quite accurate.
Tindall, George Brown, and David E. Shi. America: A Narrative History. 10th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
Schaller, Michael. Ronald Reagan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Hayward, Steven F. “How Reagan Became Reagan” Claremont Reveiw of Books 4, no. 4 (2004), Web.
Wayne, Stephen J. “Clinton’s Legacy: The Clinton Persona.” PS: Political Science and Politics 32, no. 3 (1999): 558-561.
- George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi, America: A Narrative History, 10th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 1434.
- Steven F. Hayward, “How Reagan Became Reagan,” Claremont Review of Books 4, no. 4 (2004), Web.
- Stephen J. Wayne, “Clinton’s Legacy: The Clinton Persona,” PS: Political Science and Politics 32, no. 3 (1999): 559
- Michael Schaller, Ronald Reagan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 40.