The wisest thing Mitt Romney ever told his Republican followers was this: “Ronald Reagan is dead.” Meaning, it’s time to stop pining away for the GOP glory days of the 1980s. It's as likely that Reagan will rise from the grave and reclaim leadership of the conservative movement as it is that you'll get another No. 1 song from Styx, which also peaked in 1981.
Yet the organizers of Right Nation 2010, the conservative rally coming to the Sears Centre on Sept. 18 -- to further lift the fortunes of Bill Brady? To amplify Kirk's GOP bona fides? -- are using an all-Reagan soundtrack on the event’s promotional trailer.
“If you want to wait to find that we have socialism, if you don’t do this, if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was to live in America when men were free,” the Gipper intones, over urgent violin music.
Apparently, that day has come. According to Glenn Beck, one of the event’s keynote speakers, President Obama is the socialist beast that Reagan prophesied. So the time has come for the gray-haired Right Nation crowd to tell their children of the good old days when Americans weren’t required to buy health insurance, and you could hire a landscaper to mow your lawn for $3.35 an hour.
Guess what. Their children don’t care. They voted for Obama. Nobody under 40 wants to hear Ronald Reagan stories any more than they want to listen to your old REO Speedwagon albums, watch a Family Ties rerun, or talk on a land line.
Reagan was the right man for 1980, when the liberal movement that began during the New Deal had run its course. But now the conservative movement that reached its apogee during the Reagan presidency has exhausted itself, its last ashes blown away by Obama’s victory in 2008. Indulging in a night of baby boomer/Gen X nostalgia will only reinforce the perception that the Republicans are the party of the past, with plenty of golden memories, but few new ideas. The Democrats spent too many years pining away for John F. Kennedy before finally finding a new idol in Obama.
Reagan’s funeral was in 2004. Maybe the Republican Party needs to hold another one.