Julian Zelizer: The Reagan Centennial, Reagan the politician

Source: Politico, 2-6-11

Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill are pictured. | AP Photo

Movements need leaders who are good at politics if they want to succeed. Nobody understood this more than Ronald Reagan. | AP Photo Close

Politics is a dirty word in Washington. Movement activists, on the left and the right, hate when their party negotiates with the opposition and compromises on key issues.

Over the past year, tea party Republicans leveled this charge against the GOP. They complained that Republicans had become too comfortable with the wheeling and dealing so characteristic of Capitol Hill. They promise not to do the same.

But movements need leaders who are good at politics if they want to succeed. Nobody understood this more than Ronald Reagan.

While there are extensive discussions about Reagan as an actor, as a movement leader and as a diplomat, fewer observers recall that much of his career revolved around working as a politician. Indeed, this might be one of his most important contributions to the history of conservatism: Reagan fused the ideas and values of modern conservatism with the practicalities of governance…READ MORE

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