REAGAN’S HERITAGE….Virginia Postrel on Reagan:
George Will, in his excellent obituary column, tries to claim Reagan for the Midwest, but Dan Walters knows better: “Millions of words are being spoken and written about Ronald Reagan in the aftermath of his death Saturday, but just four capture his essence: He was a Californian.”
At the risk of being pedantic, it’s hard to overstate just how profoundly the Midwest informs everything that is California. Migration from the Midwest made up the bulk of California’s population in the first part of the 20th century, and the biggest contribution of all came from Iowa and Reagan’s home state of Illinois. (In fact, his hometown of Dixon is about a hundred miles from Cerro Gordo, birthplace of my own grandfather.)
Everybody knows about California’s flakiness, but its true character ? and the source of its astonishing success ? comes from a combination of its famously vibrant openness to new ideas with the down-to-earth heritage of its Midwestern roots. In that sense, Reagan really is the perfect Californian, but it’s his Illinois upbringing that’s the key to that.
So yes, he was a Californian. But there’s a lot of history packed into those four little words.