"The ethos of Ronald Reagan and LBJ represent the two great political ideologies of our lifetime," writes Daniel Henninger in Opinion Journal:
The bitterness of our politics now is a phenomenon admitted by all. People ask whence it arrived. The answer will not be found in George W. Bush's west Texas accent or in his decision to depose Saddam Hussein. Ronald Reagan himself fired the first volleys -- and hot lead it was -- in his first inaugural speech, in 1981.
Next to Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan was perhaps the most divisive president in the nation's history. Lincoln ended a way of life for the American South. Reagan said that he was ending a way of life for American liberalism. As with Lincoln, the challenge Reagan posed to his opposition was not merely political or economic. It was profoundly moral -- and so worth a death-struggle. The tensions and bitterness evident in the body politic today, and in the current presidential campaign, arrived in Washington in 1981 with the 40th president. This quiet week of remembrance is a temporary truce.
The substantive disagreements that put these factions in opposition is not that of the mundane contests between Ford and Carter or Clinton and Dole. It was more like a religious war and remains so to this day.
"Did Ronald Reagan succeed?" asks Henninger:
He had more measurable success against the Soviet Union. It's gone. Much of the Great Society endures, no longer exciting the brilliant young, and smoking with inefficiencies. But the basic tenet of Reaganism, "the individual genius of man," now has a moral claim in our politics at least equal to the Democrats' distributive justice. The Reagan wars persist in our time because his professed heir, George W. Bush, also cut taxes. Tax revenue is the holy water of liberalism -- what they use, they believe, to work social miracles. Ronald Reagan said individuals are the source of miracles, not the government. Those were fighting words. Ronald Reagan departs, a victor.