Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, he seems never to have supposed that we live in a time marked by “the end of ideology.” It’s also true that he may never have heard of the phrase. But with those intuitive political skills of his that even opponents have been forced to recognize, the president has sensed that ideology, symbol, myth, dream, vision—those clusters of emotional yearnings and half formulated systems—still play a major part in our political life.
If there’s anyone to be associated with “the end of ideology,” it’s Jimmy Carter. Millions of Americans apparently felt that at the center of Carter lay a stark emptiness, and surely that was one reason he lost the 1980 election. But Reagan grasped the truth that voters still respond strongly to stance, attitude, tone of voice, the sum of which may not be the same as ideology but does reflect a certain connection to it. Let the National Review and its cousin Commentary provide the husks of ideology; Reagan has done something more valuable for the right, he has “translated” ideology into warm sentiments and stirring slogans....
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