American Proscenium

Candidates and the Image of Reagan

With the presidential election still a year away, Bill Kristol decided to throw in the towel.  “It seems clear that 2012 isn’t going to be another 1980,” Kristol lamented on the website of The Weekly Standard.  Neither the Republican nominee nor the next president of the United States will be another Ronald Reagan.

Kristol arrived at this conclusion after months of speculating that a who’s who of Republicans, possibly the whole list of recent keynote speakers at Washington conservative confabs, might deliver the GOP field from mediocrity.  Many other center-right pundits also played this game, searching in vain for the next Reagan the way young children play Where’s Waldo?

Why are conservative commentators so forlorn?  By many of their standards, this is the most conservative Republican presidential field in recent memory.  All candidates have said they oppose tax increases, even if outnumbered ten dollars to one by spending cuts in a grand deficit-reduction bargain.  They all claim to oppose abortion, though Herman Cain may need a bit more tutoring on how to make such claims convincingly.

Except for Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and the almost invisible Gary Johnson, the Republican presidential candidates all favor Kristol’s “neo-Reaganite” foreign policy promoting “benevolent global...

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