The thought-provoking intellectual historian died yesterday, age 73. Diggins’s 2007 book on Reagan is fascinating — the evidence for his thesis, that Reagan was was at heart a disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Tom Paine, is not quite positive, yet rings so true that it’s become my favorite take on the 40th president. I suspect, both on account of this column and from reading The Reagan I Knew, that Diggins even revolutionized Bill Buckley’s understanding of his friend.
I had hoped to get Diggins to write a revisionist piece on Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan for TAC. Alas, that’s not to be, but he did contribute a short piece to our election symposium last November.