To understand how Barack Obama sees himself and his presidency, don’t look to Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s role model is Ronald Reagan — just as Obama told us before he was first elected.
Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
Reagan used his first inaugural to make an unabashed case for conservatism. Conservatives who loved that Reagan speech are now criticizing Obama for emulating their hero and his bold defense of first principles.
And like Reagan, Obama seeks to enact his program not by getting the opposition party’s leaders to support him but by winning over a minority of the less doctrinaire Republicans — especially representatives from the Northeast, West Coast and parts of the Midwest who sense where the political winds in their regions are blowing.