Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
About a half a dozen Republican presidential candidates run simultaneously, each of them laying claim to being the true “conservative” in the race. On the other hand, just one party establishment candidate runs on no issue other than the myth of electability. With the conservative grassroots split several different ways among multiple candidates, said party establishment candidate goes on to win a series primaries to eventually clinch the nomination.
Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Obviously I just described the typical Republican presidential primary cycle, but the question that still needs to be answered is why does this keep happening?
To win the future we are mistakenly trying to repeat the past by finding “the next Reagan.” But that is nostalgia talking, and nostalgia is a paralyzing force that makes you a prisoner of the past. Reagan was a man for his time who served God (and the republic) in his generation. But this is no longer Reagan’s time. In fact, it’s far from it. That’s why Reagan couldn’t get nominated today. And neither could George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Calvin Coolidge. Our principles may not change but culture does, so the way of communicating and acting on those principles must as well, which requires leaders who understand the times they’re living in and what to do about them. We can’t find another Reagan because we can’t replicate the cultural conditions that gave rise to the Reagan era in the first place, and attempts to do so are like IBM trying to best the iPhone by re-introducing the mainframe computer.
If nostalgia is a paralyzing force, then tradition is an empowering one. Tradition tells us that we should stop chasing after the next Reagan, instead take a stand for the principles and virtues he stood for, and it will be those timeless truths that will produce those that will serve God (and the republic) in their generation. They won’t be “the next Reagan” but rather the ones that will pick up where he left off, just as Reagan did for leaders in the past that stood for the same values in their time and in their way.
However, just because its fools’ gold to try and find “the next Reagan” doesn’t mean we can’t still learn from Reagan.