Ronald Reagan had a healthy skepticism for the damaging effects of government encroachment on personal and economic liberties. But his unrivaled, sunny optimism envisioned a “shining city upon on a hill” enabled by responsive government.
Much of today’s conservative and libertarian grassroots rhetoric echoes nationwide suspicion of government, reinforced by, say, muddled rollout of the Affordable Care Act and widespread National Security Agency surveillance.
Yet kneejerk cynicism in how the movement speaks of government damages the brand and alienates independents and racial minorities.
Conservatives struggle to appeal to blacks and Hispanics, voting blocks that enabled President Obama’s wins. One messaging example: African Americans disproportionately work for government, and when conservatives rail against their employer, this can be off putting.
In 1986, Reagan quipped that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.