Take a drink every time Reagan’s mentioned.
If I did that at CPAC, I would’ve died of alcohol poisoning.
I’m not kidding. Reagan was talked about that much.
A panel was specifically about Reagan, with 3 or 4 others coming at issues from a “Reagan perspective.”
It was insane. And telling.
Conservatism is a movement, right? But why the obsession with a man who’s presidency ended in the late 80s.
We ask “where is Reagan?” We’re told to find the next Reagan. We look at the problems facing the US today and compare and contrast it with what Reagan did 40 years ago in a different age.
We’re told whether directly or indirectly that Reagan is the epitome of conservatism. He’s the epitome of conservative leadership and presidency.
And it’s pushed on us without any thought about the consequences.
The consequences being we’ve lifted up one man onto an unreachable standard.
No one’s reaching the standard, and no one will.
But some will die to get there. Which is why I have a problem with this Ronald Reagan Idolatry.
Making Reagan Into Something He Wasn’t
In Batman: The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent compares Batman to Julius Caesar, ultimately ending it with saying “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Reagan was lucky to die a hero. He’s been immortalized in the conservative movement as the Godfather of it all.
I mention this quote from Batman because it illuminates a dangerous side to immortality.
The more you’re idolized, the more likely your message and character will be perverted to fit into someone else’s agenda.
Napoleon Bonaparte knew this quite well…
“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
Peter L. Berger, the American sociologist stated that…
“The past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened.”
And lastly, Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist hit the nail on the head…
“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say history is largely a history of inflation, usually inflations engineered by governments for the gain of governments.”
I fear that Reagan’s image has been distorted (whether intentionally or not) to fit into this narrative that is his “conservative legacy.”
Thanks to idolization, Reagan could become something he’s not, if he’s not already.
Chasing Reagan’s Ghost
On day one at CPAC, Dana Loesch criticized Reagan idolization by saying “Reagan’s gone and we’ve gotta stop chasing his ghost.”
This “ghost chasing” is one of the most repulsive aspects of Reagan Idolatry.
Ghost chasing is the idea that our “Reagan” is out there somewhere. You might’ve heard conservatives ask “where is Reagan?”
It’s like when conservatives claim we need a modern day George Washington (an idea that I’m sure Washington would loath).
It’s the idea that the incarnate version of a political leader exists. “We need a new Reagan to lead the party.”
This type of thinking encourages laziness. No one is coming to lead you out of the desert. You’ve got to lead yourself.
Also, no one is going to match up with your version of Reagan. It’s an impossible standard to reach.
Instead of chasing Reagan’s incarnation, we should be building a movement that can survive and thrive without a leader.
Reagan’s Time is Not Our Time
One of the first panels Friday morning at CPAC was on the national security issues that the next president will face.
Interesting topic, right?
You’d think, but it ended up being another idolize Reagan session.
I was frustrated.
Reagan lived in another time. He had different issues, nations, and citizens to deal with. He had a potential nuclear war, we don’t. He had governments to deal with, we have terrorists.
The panelists talked about Reagan’s leadership and how it applies to today’s issues. KT McFarland said that “When Ronald Reagan came here [CPAC] in 1980 we were in a very similar situation.”
All of the panelists discussed Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength.” It was a Reagan-fest.
Lack of Leadership is a Problem, But It’s Not the Fix
I get it. Reagan’s leadership was exemplary. But our issues can’t solely be blamed on a lack of leadership. It’s more complex than that.
And the nuances between Reagan’s time and ours are too much. We need to address our issues. We need to stop looking to Reagan for advice.
The conservative movement needs to move past Reagan Idolatry to the realization that their problems are their own, and need to be handled on their own.
What do you think? Does Reagan hold too much power over the decisions of conservatism? Is it time for us to stop chasing what “Reagan would have done?” Leave a comment below with your answer.