By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
The passing of the former first Lady Nancy Reagan is a moment for mourning and reflection of our nation’s collective loss.
Mrs. Reagan and her husband President Ronald Reagan inhabited the white House from 1981-1989. By all accounts she was a very influential force helping to shape President Reagan’s views and his style. She was also a tireless advocate to rid America of scourge drugs and trying to keep young people from becoming addicted to dangerous controlled substances. In that regard she is best noted for her “Just Say No” campaign.
But perhaps her greatest contribution was her support of her husband in all the various circumstances that President Reagan found himself involved, both personal and political. Whether or not one believes that the 40th President was a great one or not, there is no denying that President Reagan believed deeply in his brand of conservative politics and was fiercely loyal to those principles. But he was always respectful, and always dignified. He sought out what he thought were the best solutions to national problems even if at times that meant compromising his views. Half a loaf was better than none. And by taking that tact with that civil tone Ronald Reagan generally got more than half the loaf.
The enduring picture that occupies the mind when thinking about the Reagan presidency is Nancy and Ronald standing side by side. The love was apparent and the respect was paramount. Nobody can doubt that Reagan was a political trailblazer. He became the modern day Republican Party icon. So much so that virtually every Republican candidate for President invokes his name and his memory and suggests to voters that he (or she) is the heir to that which became known as the Reagan Revolution.
But the mantle of Reagan is not just his economic and domestic policies or his foreign policy initiatives but it was his respect for people, his sense of collegiality with his Democratic counterparts and his ability to communicate in a way that was not bullying or ego driven. With Nancy always by his side the first couple projected strength and conviction without attempting to denigrate or demonize their adversaries. For them dignity trumped insults every time.
With the passing of the former First Lady we realize that we lost more than this woman of substance and probity. In the years since her White House days we lost their personal sense of grace and generosity in their public lives and political pursuits. In the years since it has been supplanted by mean spiritedness and ego driven partisan uncompromising action leading to gridlock and vicious political campaigning… on both sides of the political aisle.
America today mourns the passing of Nancy Reagan and a certain loss of dignity as well as the reverence of the office of the presidency.