Republicans have longed for a conservative candidate; a real conservative. Not a campaign conservative. Not a fiscal conservative, social moderate hybrid. Republicans long for a new Reagan. But is America going to find the next Ronald Reagan to undo the years of creeping liberalism?
Today, many conservatives believe that you must pass a litmus test to be a member of their club. To most, a conservative candidate must support or defend one, a few, or ideally, all of these:
- Traditional marriage
- End abortions
- The right to own and bear arms
- Traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and values
- Strong military and defense
- Support Israel
- Supply-side economics
every most GOP candidates claim to support all of the above, so what is a conservative voter to do? The dilemma facing voters is wading through the campaign rhetoric so each candidate's record, history, leadership, and charisma can be fully examined. Interestingly, you will not find a Ronald Reagan clone in the current crop of GOP candidates.
Ronald Reagan believed "the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism." As a presidential candidate, Reagan was not a practitioner of libertarian ideas, but he was an advocate for individual liberty. Even as president, "Dutch" promoted individualism and personal responsibility. And while the federal budget grew during his two terms, he often spoke out for a smaller role of government in the lives of Americans. Now, after two and a half years of an extremely liberal Obama administration, the republican party is primed for a this type of conservative to lead them.
Today, every GOP candidate looks conservative when their records are stacked against President Obama's White House record. Is anyone in the GOP field a Reagan? In my opinion, no, and that is OK.
For too long, conservatives have allowed the media to shape voter opinions of GOP candidates by examining which one is most like Reagan. Typically, the media uses a litmus test to determine which candidate is most palatable to conservatives. However, what if Gov. Rick Perry stated he no longer supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage, then do conservatives dismiss his candidacy because of it? Or does one ask if Rick Perry's change of heart is based on polling data, or did he realize that it isn't the proper role of government to decide what a marriage is or isn't? If Michele Bachmann changed her religious affiliation next Sunday to practice Voodoo (extreme example, I know), should her supporters jump ship, even though she is the most vocal about repealing Obama care and controlling our national debt? My point is all candidates have certain flaws to explain and overcome to earn the confidence of voters; none are perfect.
In reflection, Ronald Reagan wasn't the perfect candidate, yet he became the perfect president for those times. Similarly, we must let the next GOP presidential candidate stand on his or her own two feet. Let that person elevate themselves based upon their own achievements as a candidate, independent from any type of litmus test or comparison because looking for the next Reagan will certainly end in disappointment; that candidate doesn't exist.