The Republicans this year are not a particularly united bunch. They differ on many key issues, such as immigration, Iraq, and to what degree to denounce abortion. But they are united in one solitary fact, and that is this: Ronald Reagan was the single greatest human being on the face of the planet for ever and ever Amen.
As such, many of the GOP candidates will be digging up and resurrecting the memory of Ronald Reagan to try and win the votes of those who still clasp longingly for another Morning in America. There are several paths to true Reagan enlightenment, and only that candidate that masters them all will be the nominee.
Sound Like the Gipper: Ronald Reagan was called the “Great Communicator,” and not without reason. Reagan was a master orator who could turn any event, no matter its objective insignificance, into an appeal for how great America was and the margin of victory in kicking every one else’s ass. He would wake up and have a bowl of Frankenberry for breakfast, and he’s turn to his wife and say, “Nancy, this bowl of Frankenberry represents all that is good with America. Its patriotic taste reminds me of the American Dream, and nothing, not sour milk, not soggy grain, not even the communists, can ever take that away. God bless America.” And Nancy, like clockwork, would be so moved she would immediately volunteer for the army, and Ron would laugh and laugh, ‘cause they don’t let ladies in the military!
Govern Like the Gipper: Candidates seeking the presidency tend to run campaigns much like they govern. In this case, looking at Reagan’s governing style may be an effective way to run a campaign operation. Reagan had a rather hands-off governing style. As in, he spent his time governing not doing much of anything at all. He’s walk into a room full of advisors and say “We need to end communism. I’ll be back after lunch. Let me know how it goes.” And sure enough when he got back from Hardee’s after he’d finish reading that article in Boy’s Life about thistles his advisors would present him with a plan to end communism. That’s the kind of leadership style Reagan had—forceful, to the point, and, apparently, incredibly lazy. Granted, the plans that were hatched were pretty much always some variation of “throw a tactical nuke in Brezhnev’s colonoscopy bag,” but at least something was getting done. Or, rather, the appearance of something was getting done, which in politics is just as important.
Look Like the Gipper: Let’s face it, guys and gals: Reagan looked good. He was pretty smokin’ for an octogenarian politician. Most politicians look like a cross between Bosnia and a plate of Chinese dog food. Reagan’s background as an actor certainly helped in this; Hollywood studios are reluctant to hire double baggers unless you have some sort of compensating factor, such as being the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. And let’s just take a look at the previous occupants; time had not been kind to Nixon’s widow’s peak or LBJ’s anythings. Aging well may not be genetically possible for many, but certain nominees in the past election certainly found salvation in Botox injections. Current candidates should certainly consult “image specialists.” Either that or inject dioxins into Mitt Romney’s face when he’s sleeping.
Act Like the Gipper: In politics, it always pays to emulate those you admire. Some, of course, take it a little bit further; it isn’t particularly effective if you are, say, Joseph Biden and the year is 1988, and you are plagiarizing a reasonably important political figure in Great Britain, and the amount of effort used to find out this fact and have it be publicized by a rival for the nomination is less than it would have been to write your own damn speech. But many are more adept at co-opting not only the positions and doctrines of their heroes, but their style and personality as well. Reagan’s original career was an actor, of course, so he spent his early years pretending to be someone else. Which was, essentially, himself. God bless Ron, but it doesn’t take much effort to play a straight-arrow World War II veteran with a pretty fiancé in all your movies when you are, in reality, a straight-arrow World War II veteran with a pretty fiancé. (I am assuming, of course, that Ron didn’t keep a chimpanzee around at his house answering the telephone.) Some even take it to more extremes than that. Fred Thompson, the actor known primarily for his role as the District Attorney on Law & Order, oh, and he might have been a real-life senator at one point as well, is in the front running for the presidency. If he receives the job, we’ll have an actor acting like an actor acting like a president. Too cute by half, indeed, which means he should fit right in.
Forget Like the Gipper: You know, late in his presidency, many jokes were crafted detailing Ron’s inability to remember various facts, such as whether he authorized the sale of arms to the Contras for the release of Iranian hostages or where he left his glasses. It was funny to gently prod the elderly statesman, and, hey, he’s only human and we all forget sometimes, eh? Then it turns out he had Alzheimer’s, and then we weren’t allowed to laugh anymore. Fair enough. Still, it may be a useful craft to conveniently “forget” certain facts about your history and your present. For instance, Rudy Guiliani can conveniently “forget” was his position on abortion is, at least until, oh, I don’t know, say, Septmber 5th, 2008. Mitt Romney can “forget” his religious affiliation when campaigning in West Virginia, California, and…well, hell, any state outside of Utah and southern Idaho. Tom Tancredo can “forget” that he has no chance of winning—oh, wait, that’s already happened.
Get Elected Like the Gipper: This one remains to be seen, though at least Reagan had an incredibly anti-talented co-lead in both 1980 and 1984. Hillary fans, as always, take note.