Ronald Reagan And Modern Conservatism, The Cost Of Wisconsin’s Delayed Road Projects

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Have you ever wondered why Republican presidential candidates want to be like Ronald Reagan? A historian joins us to explore how President Reagan shaped modern conservatism. We also get the scoop on how Wisconsin’s delayed road projects could cost the state millions of dollars over the next couple years.

Featured in this Show

  • Reagan's Legacy Continues To Loom Large In 2016 Presidential Race

    As more than a dozen Republican hopefuls continue to battle for their party’s presidential nomination, one figure continues to loom large over the group and modern conservatism in general: Ronald Reagan.

    The adoration of Reagan was on full display during last month’s GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where each of the candidates compared themselves and their vision of the future with the nation’s 40th president.

    How is it that Reagan continues to be the patron saint of conservatism? Rick Perlstein, author of “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” said he believes it might be for a lack of choices.

    “There really is no one else,” he said. “If you’re a conservative and you’re looking to presidential figures he’s really the only one to look to.”

    Since Reagan left the White House in 1988, Perlstein said the GOP has searched for a candidate who offers a similarly effective “charismatic smiling optimism” that puts Americans at ease as the country faces economic hardship and international threats.

    “This year, of course, (Republicans) are running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find it, and the guy that emerges, Donald Trump, has none of this cheerful optimism,” Perlstein said.

    While Perlstein pointed out stark differences between Reagan and Trump, most notably their views on immigration, the author did acknowledge that both candidates were not taken seriously.

    “Ronald Reagan, ever since he entered politics, that was in 1966 with his first gubernatorial run, was seen as a joke, as an extremist, as an embarrassment,” Perlstein said. “When he ran for governor in 1966 and won the Republican nomination, the Washington Star, which was kind of even the bigger Washington paper back then, said that there was rejoicing at ‘Liberace for governor headquarters.’ It was just a big joke.”

    During the 1980 presidential election, Jimmy Carter didn’t take Reagan seriously either. Perlstein said Carter’s people were absolutely convinced that Reagan was a lightweight, and if they could just get him on a debate stage, Americans would be frightened by his “extremism or his shallowness or his lack of intellectual heft, and that Carter would glide to victory.”

    Instead, in what had been a tie going into the last week of the election, turned not only into a Reagan landslide but a landslide for a bunch of conservative senators.

    Perlstein said a similar underdog narrative is being used to describe Trump in the current presidential race. The real estate developer and TV personality continues to lead the crowded GOP pack, but whether he moves into the White House remains to be seen. And much like Reagan’s political ascent, people don’t seem to think Trump will get there.

  • Ronald Reagan and the Modern Conservative Movement

    As a dozen Republican hopefuls continue to battle for the party’s presidential nomination, we look at the role that Ronald Reagan plays in modern conservatism.

  • Cost Of Delaying Road Projects In Wisconsin Could Exceed $160 Million

    A state plan to delay a handful of major road projects could end up costing $160 million or more over the next two years, according to projections released this week. A reporter explains where the cost projection comes from, and how this might influence the ongoing debate over transportation funding.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Galen Druke Producer
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Rick Perlstein Guest
  • Patrick Marley Guest