The Right Is Hooked On Reagan And Its Killing Them
Conservatives are addicted to Ronald Reagan more than they are in love with tax cuts. More than any other issue – and there are several – holding the modern conservative movement back, I think their never-ending obsession with President Reagan is at the top of the list.
First, a caveat. It isn’t as if the left doesn’t have its presidential heroes. Without a doubt figures like FDR, Kennedy, and LBJ (on domestic policy at least) will always hold a special place in the left’s heart. The same can be said for President Clinton, as well as non-Democrats like Teddy Roosevelt (a favorite of mine). But, and this is key, as much as the New Deal shaped our modern world, there is little of the cult of personality around FDR that there is with Reagan.
The right has allowed the right-wing hagiographic version of Reagan (the one who didn’t raise taxes, like the real Reagan) to dictate so much of what they are as a party. On domestic policy and foreign policy, the right is regularly pausing to ask “what would Reagan do” rather than come up with a modern, conservative, solution.
I’m a liberal, I don’t want conservatism to succeed, but despite that I do want a coherent conservative alternative to be offered if only to keep our liberals on their toes. Plus, history shows us that overall that’s better for the party.
But the right adheres to a brand of Reaganism that The Great Communicator himself could never live up to. Reagan’s actual policies and occasional compromises would put him quite a distance from the Tea Party that supposedly reveres him.
And let’s be blunt: Ronald Reagan hasn’t been the head of the Republican Party for 23 years now. Children born on the last day of his presidency are finished with college.
There isn’t anything wrong with parties and movements having national heroes and examples of leadership, but it becomes too much when you allow them (or fantasy versions of them) to rule your thinking so much it becomes a hindrance, rather than a celebration.