Exactly why a mountain in Southern Nevada came to be named after a Frenchman is a puzzler. Naming the top of that mountain — not the entire mountain, mind you — after a late, great United States president shouldn’t be such a big deal.
But it is a big deal — a long, politically perilous process that’s ultimately decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Yet it could happen by the end of this year, thanks to the efforts of Nevada conservative activist Chuck Muth.
On Sept. 10, the Nevada State Board on Geographic Names voted 5-2 in favor of Mr. Muth’s proposal to name the 4,052-foot peak of Frenchman Mountain after President Ronald Reagan. The Mount Reagan plan won despite a politically driven, last-minute, online petition campaign that bombarded board members with attacks on the 40th president.
It’s hard to think of someone more deserving of any renaming campaign, despite never-ending efforts to distort and diminish the legacy of Mr. Reagan. When he took office in 1981, the economy was mired in double-digit inflation and unemployment, communists around the world were emboldened by America’s foreign policy weaknesses, and the country was rapidly losing faith in the notion of American exceptionalism. “The Great Communicator” had the gift of putting the country’s problems in terms everyone could understand while inspiring optimism for the future. He championed economic freedom and the Reagan Doctrine, a strategy that attacked the growing global power and influence of the Soviet Union through bolstered national defense and foreign policy predicated on American strength. In perhaps his finest speech, in 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Mr. Reagan challenged his Soviet counterpart: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Under the leadership of Mr. Reagan, the country reversed course. The economy grew rapidly, the Soviet Union and other communist regimes eventually collapsed, and the United States became the world’s lone superpower. Having never enjoyed a Republican-controlled Congress, Mr. Reagan’s goals of a smaller federal government never came true. But his election landslides — Mr. Reagan lost a total of only seven states (and the District of Columbia twice) in his two presidential elections — gave him the political capital to enact pro-growth tax and economic policies, an approach that would serve the country well today.
That naming a Nevada mountaintop requires federal approval is a prime example of the centralized power structure Mr. Reagan abhorred. But no one wants to see landmarks renamed with the fair-weather frequency of stadiums and ballparks — that would make mapping problematic. For that reason, changing any landmark name is nearly impossible. Hence Mr. Muth’s effort to name only the top of Frenchman Mountain, an antenna-covered peak three miles south of Sunrise Mountain on the east side of the Las Vegas Valley.
This should be an easy call for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Thanks to Mr. Muth for leading this effort. Let Mount Reagan overlook Southern Nevada.