"You cannot emulate any time in American history. You cannot try to premise your actions on Reagan. ‘He did this, so he'd do this.’ It's the fundamental principles that Reagan brought to the table that are applicable to our globalized generation and the challenges we face." -- House Republican Policy Committee Chairman, Thaddeus McCotter
Ronald Reagan was the greatest American President of the last 100 years, the second most important man of the 20th century behind Churchill, and one of the outstanding Presidents and world leaders of the modern era.
Reagan rebuilt our military, got our economy thriving again, re-energized the Republican Party, popularized conservative principles, was the one man most responsible for winning the Cold War, and conservatives always knew that he was one of us right down to his core.
That is why there was such an outpouring of grief when the Gipper died and why Ronald Reagan's name is still revered amongst conservatives -- and rightfully so.
That being said, many people in the conservative movement, because of our reverence for Reagan, have fallen into a trap, one that Reagan himself would have cautioned us to avoid.
That trap is coalescing around Reagan's agenda instead of Reagan's principles. That may seem to be a subtle point; however, it is a rather important distinction.
Principles are timeless. The free market almost always does a better job of handling things than big government. People are better able to spend their own money than the government is. As government power increases, the people's liberty retracts.
On the other hand, agendas can and often do change. We no longer need to try to defeat the Soviet Union. Restoring America's confidence in our military after the debacle in Vietnam isn't important any more. Defeating stagflation isn't exactly a hot topic either.
Reagan understood this instinctively. There were conservatives back in the thirties, but Reagan didn't run an election based on their issues. He had great respect for Barry Goldwater, the father of the modern conservative movement, but he didn't adopt Goldwater's agenda wholesale and if he had, he would have never become President of the United States.
That brings us to the dual problem we face with today's Republican Party.