These are themes that have resonated and reverberated down through the decades among Republican politicians. They are a message that Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, touches on in virtually all of his public remarks. They were there in the speeches of President George W. Bush and echoed through statements of recent GOP presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.
These sentiments define the Reagan era in our nation’s politics — an era that began with the 40th president’s speech on January 20, 1981, and ended with the 45th president’s speech on January 20, 2017, exactly 36 years later.
Through sheer inertia, remnants of that era will persist for a while, especially among certain members of Congress, in right-of-center think tanks, and among conservative-movement intellectuals, all of whom have focused so long and so obsessively on cutting government that they don’t know what else to do or say with their minds or their efforts in American public life. But make no mistake: On Friday, Trump accomplished an ideological sea change. Yes, he spoke in Reaganite terms of transferring power from Washington back to “you, the people.” But when Reagan said those words, he was talking about individuals. Government, Reagan insisted, was smothering the creativity and ambition and productivity of individual Americans. Cut it back, get it out of the way, and the genius, the virtue, the heroism of ordinary Americans would rise up and flourish, enabling them to “begin an era of national renewal.”