It’s virtually undeniable that Ronald Reagan is the most popular Republican president since Abraham Lincoln. Barely 20 years from his final year in office, we as Republicans now look to him as an icon of what we want in a President today. Just why is that the case?
Despite the overarching greatness we remember him for, Ronald Reagan did make mistakes. Now to some within our party, that previous statement would be considered heresy or treason. But according to our principles as a party, there were times, though few, when Reagan fell short. He granted amnesty to illegal aliens which has played a part in the immigration debacle we face today. The national debt increased greatly under his administration, which seemed to validate the “voodooeconomics” charge by Reagan’s future Vice President George H.W. Bush. And as Governor of California, Reagan was pro-choice.
But that’s not what we think of when we think of Reagan.
Reagan represents to us a time when people were proud to be Americans, not Republicans, Democrats, Independents, but Americans. He symbolizes a love for God and country that is almost forgotten in the current fray of partisan politics. He exuded an idealistic optimism that was unmatched among any other politician at the time. It’s no wonder Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale couldn’t compete with him.
But in 2008, I wonder if Republicans, let alone Americans, would elect Ronald Reagan today. We’d call him a flip-flopper. We’d say he was too old. We’d skewer him for his lack of foreign policy experience. It’s almost as if we wouldn’t even know Reagan if he was running today.
The thing about Reagan is that when he was faced with the challenges and opportunities to make America better, he succeeded. He played a major role in ending communism in the U.S.S.R. He led us out of the disaster that was the Carter administration. He was compassionate, but he was firm. After America had lost faith in its leaders after Vietnam and Watergate, Reagan restored some of that faith and optimism we once had in America.
And while we’ve had a Republican president for 12 of the past 20 years, both have paled in comparison to Reagan.
But while I think it’s important to look to Reagan by assembling the coalition of conservatives that he was able to, we need a President that will make his own mark on America. We need a new touchstone for future generations to look to for inspiration, not for imitation.
I know many of you out there are already affiliated with some candidate in one way or another, but if any of you out there are on the fence and are looking for a candidate to throw your support behind, I’d urge you to look for one who will make his own mark on America like Reagan did.
While we should learn from Reagan, we need to remember to look forward instead of backward.