No matter how many ways candidates spat over whose father Reagan liked more or make lofty appeals to an administration that ended over 20 years ago, using Reagan as a campaign tactic brings nothing new to the table.
For young people, Ronald Reagan is just a figure in our history books, a throwback to “the good old days.” Much like appealing to the founding fathers, positioning a candidate as “Reaganesque” is a nice idea to which older conservatives will respond well. But for my generation, the term lacks the deeper meaning it has for those who were alive during Reagan’s presidency.
To be successful with the “millennial” generation, candidates need to present themselves as a new flavor of conservative, not model themselves after someone to whom we hold little real attachment. It’s a strategy that worked well for the “red tide” of 2010 that saw a wave of fresh-faced Tea Party candidates rise from anonymity to success. Think Kristi Noem, Sean Duffy, Allen West. Think Marco Rubio. Think Sarah Palin. They created their own brand of energetic conservatism, their own optimism and patriotism.
But just a few years later, here we are mired in the muddled politics-as-usual, forced to choose between the lesser of three establishment moderates – oh, and Ron Paul – frantically calling upon Reagan’s ghost to legitimize their candidacy. For young people (and, I should hope, for all voters), it’s a pretty transparent tactic that ultimately holds little sway.
Ronald Reagan was a great president. But – and I’m sure I’ll be accused of conservative blasphemy for this post – he is dead. While the past is to be treasured, this election is about the future. It’s time for the energy and new conservatism that swept the House in 2010 to continue.