The Russians have their man in prime minister Vladimir Putin. And they know why he’s the one. Americans browsing our own presidential aspirants, especially the Republicans, should be so astute. America needs a strong new leader to remove a weak one. Will we give primacy to strength, or will we lapse into soft-headed longing for someone who makes us feel good about something that doesn’t really matter?
Many of my American friends struggled with this. Some even pointed out that Putin gets low marks in American polls, with typically about two-thirds holding unfavorable impressions of the Russian leader. One Russian guide asked philosophically, “What do you think is more important, that a leader be respected in other countries or his own?” The question was remarkable in several ways, but most importantly because it focused on a leader’s respect instead of likability. Respect is more about satisfying outward national needs. Likability is purely about inward and personal needs. The Russians might have figured something out that eludes many narcissistic Americans.
All this made my mind drift to the Republican fetish for Reagan nostalgia. Remembering Reagan could be a good thing, but we cheapen it. Instead of recognizing that Reagan’s magic was a quiet and determined strength to reverse the tide of socialism, we minimize the man by remembering him for little more than tax cuts (that benefited us personally) and misguided notions of “morning in America.” What was that morning all about? Was it a new strength and resolve, or just some cheap talk-show rhetoric about drowning government in a bathtub?
Americans need to look at the nation and what we need, rather than asking, “What’s in it for me?” We desperately need strong national leadership to get most everything headed in the right direction, regardless of how that affects us personally. If Republicans take that into account, we might get another Reagan.
David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.