Misleading headline alert!
While commuting the other day, I was listening to some nondescript radio talk show pundit on a nondescript radio talk show ramble on about how the Republican Party needs to return to the policies and values espoused by Ronald Reagan. Anytime anyone invokes the former president these days it’s usually a conversation much like the one I heard on the radio. I’m sure you’ve heard it too, if you pay any attention to the news at all: “Reagan had principles. He stood up to the Soviets and won the Cold War and everything Republican would be hunky-dory if we could just get back to that sort of leadership again.”
I get it. I remember. I was around then. I even voted for him twice.
Last night I was testing the new FiOS app on my smartphone. I stumbled across Megyn Kelly’s broadcast at the end of which she was doing a story about Reagan’s speech at Normandy in June, 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the European Continent. It’s a memorable speech and one of my personal favorites: “… These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
Twenty years later, when I was working on the Department of Defense World War II 60th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, we spoke in reverent tones about that speech. And rightly so.
But that’s another story.
What bugs me about hearing all about President Reagan lately is all this looking backwards – looking to the past at a great leader during a very different time in our Nation’s history. Was he the right guy at the right time? Yes. Who knows if the Berlin Wall would still be standing had Reagan not demanded three years later the leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”?
If Republican pundits and the Party want to become relevant again, stop invoking Ronald Reagan. While yes, the Reagan years were awfully good to me personally, now is not the time to be looking for the next Reagan. The world is a VERY different place now than it was back then. Besides, it’s pretty clear from the queue of lousy candidates the Republicans have backed at the national level that one doesn’t exist — at least not yet.
The Republican establishment, in my opinion, has nearly always relied on the old establishment guys for national leadership positions. While there’s no arguing that experience has value, the party needs to stop fronting candidates just because it’s their turn.
The Republicans need to create and foster a party in which the natural leaders are free to emerge without fear of the potentially damning criticism of the conservative wing of the party. Most people don’t vote based on just one issue, so why exclude an otherwise outstanding candidate because of just one issue? The collective candidates of any party are far more alike than different. So why is it that the Republicans always seem to eat their young?
Allow leaders to emerge and let the public decide what they’ll support through a primary system which encourages honest debate focused on ideas and most importantly, doesn’t destroy a potential Reagan before he or she ever has the chance to be recognized. It’s OK to disagree without completely destroying your opponent.
Is it wrong that I yearn for some degree of reasonableness in the process?
President Reagan was a great president and was perfect for the times. He was the right guy at the right time. Serendipity? Perhaps. But the way the Republicans seem to be running things these days, such a serendipitous candidate can never happen.
Stop looking back to Regan for inspiration. Look within. Look forward instead of looking back.