Al Cardenas

In 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan did something no Republican has since done in a presidential election – he won in Massachusetts. He won in a state that had not voted for a Republican candidate since President Eisenhower ran for re-election in 1956. That Reagan won there twice proves that this was no accident of history but the result of a concerted strategy. By uniting all the branches of conservatism with like-minded independents and Reagan Democrats, he was able to build a coalition that carried him to victory across our country. That coalition rested on a three legged stool, a message that the Republican party would support a strong national defense, a strong economy and strong families.

Since then, every Republican who has sat in the Oval Office has carried the mantle of this remarkably successful coalition.

Yet today, as Republicans are once again seeking a candidate who can win in the red states, the blue states and more importantly, the purple states, some Republicans are considering junking the Reagan model and experimenting with a different approach. That approach comes down to one word – "electability." "Electability," a quality with little ideological meaning, has become a buzz word for surrogates seeking to make the case for a candidate who fails to unite our party and bring together all Republicans, including social conservatives.

Was Ronald Reagan wrong?

No. But that is what some in our party would have us believe. They tell us that our party's success depends on a New York-California strategy. That the only way to put those states in play is to nominate a Republican who like Hillary Clinton, opposes a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, a candidate who, like Senator Clinton, supports confiscatory gun-laws and taxpayer funded abortion.

These Republicans tell us that our party's strength can rest on a two-legged stool of a strong military and a strong economy. They ask social conservatives to wait upstairs until the party is over -- because they wouldn't want to embarrass their other guests. If Republicans just hide their social conservativism under their coats, they tell us, we might just slide by.

History tells us they are wrong. Experience proves their "electability" theory elects Democrats.

Ronald Reagan was more than just an appealing candidate. He was a compelling leader capable of uniting and mobilizing economic, social and defense-minded conservatives together in a movement to bring change to our nation. His victories would not have been possible without this coalition. Reagan didn't carry California by running as Hillary-lite.


Al Cardenas

Al Cardenas is Chairman of the American Conservative Union.
 


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