In part 1 of this series of posts, machine politics and the Obama campaign’s better organization was discussed. While this often can account in large measure for losses at the polls, people also show up to vote when they are excited about a candidate. That brings me to reason 2.
The Republican Party should celebrate Ronald Reagan; but it should stop looking for the next Ronald Reagan. Every Republican candidate in the primary claimed to be the most like him. And yet, none were. The reason is simple: there will never be another Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan was more than ideological conservatism embodied. He had a unique personality and a remarkable ability to communicate with people. People just liked Ronald Reagan. And at the risk of angering conservatives the world over, they liked him for reasons other than his conservatism.
Ronald Reagan made people believe in America, and themselves, again. He reminded us of the greatness of our culture and convinced us again that we have to pick ourselves up and go. He encouraged us and reminded us that we had the answers to what was ailing us if we would only dare to believe in American individualism and exceptionalism again. And yes, he portrayed these things in terms that conservatives understood and preferred.
The Republican party has tried for too long to find another Ronald Reagan, a candidate with the same ideology and approach. In some ways they are going about it all wrong though. The ideology matters, but it can’t be the only thing under consideration. People have to like the person and respect them as a leader too.
Consider recent history. Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, and Bill Clinton were all likeable people regardless of their politics. Like it or not, Obama has recognized a reality in American politics and adjusted. Running for president is as much, or perhaps slightly more, about rock star status than it is ability to lead or ideas. Republicans and the conservative movement would do well to recognize that ideas alone are not enough to win in the modern age of 24 hour news cycles and the internet.
Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest presidents in American history. He is gone though. Let’s recognize that what made Ronald Reagan special was a unique blend that we likely won’t see again. Rather than forcibly recreate the past let’s acknowledge the reality we are in and find new candidates that have the right, but different, blend to make it in the politics of today.