The ghost of Ronald Reagan
Past leaders must not overshadow today’s rising stars. | blogs.denverpost.com
Once upon a time, in the land known as The United States of America, there was a beloved leader who hailed from the west. Known by many names like “Dutch,” “The Great Communicator” and “The Gipper,” he captured the hearts of many Americans through his firm stances against the Soviets, Iranians and even air traffic controllers. From his 1980 landslide election over President Carter to his commanding 49-state reelection in 1984, Ronald Reagan proved a transcendental candidate and the gold-standard for conservatives nationwide. That was 30 years ago.
Today, the newest generation of adults, born at the tail-end of his presidential tenure, cannot recognize a portrait of Ronald Reagan. Putting aside the deeply concerning issue of American history education, there is a larger political issue at hand. Many in the Republican party today seek to compare current candidates for president and other partisan positions to President Reagan. They use his legacy as an ideological litmus test that, if failed, results in persecution of the candidate, including the application of the pejorative and demeaning label “RINO,” meaning “Republican in name only.” Those purists, especially in the older generations, are constantly looking for the next Reagan who they perceive as a righteous conservative, but in reality, if the actor-president resurrected and threw his hat in the ring today, could he get elected?
When you actually look at Reagan’s record as president, many of those same purists would attack him for the conservative “heresies” he committed in office. From increasing the size of government, raising taxes numerous times to deal with a swelling budget, granting amnesty to illegal immigrants and expanding abortion rights, he would be run out of the party for being too liberal. Rather than representing the most conservative wing of his party on every issue, Reagan governed and made tough decisions that went against his political stances, just like every decent elected official.
The same goes for the Democratic Party, who hails Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the paragon of liberalism, and that was almost 80 years ago. They have ensured that every politician fears reforming New Deal Policies and herald the polio-inflicted president as a father-figure for America. While there is no doubt that Reagan and Roosevelt are transformative figures and have earned their immortalization in American history, it is just that — history. We are only 15 years into the new millenium and we have already seen an exponential growth in globalization and radical, breakneck-speed shifts in culture. The 21st century requires a new kind of leader that faces the brave, new world. It is unfair of those from the previous generations to hold the burgeoning leaders to an obsolete standard.
Whoever succeeds President Barack Obama needs to be their own person and establish their own legacy. Whatever political stripes you have, make sure your candidate looks to the future.