Fri, 13 Mar 2009 22:18:01 +0000 – By Mark JosephProducer/author/Editor, Bullypulpit.com
Traditionally, a generation is thought to be somewhere around 33 years, which would make 2012 ground zero for the arrival of the Reagan Generation or Gen-R in American politics--that is those who grew up steeped in the politics, personality and culture of America's 40th president, a man who began his successful campaign for president in 1979.
As such, 2008 was something of an awkward year for the GOP and conservatives in general. It was the last election before Gen-R comes of age politically and offers up a candidate who attended Ronald Reagan charm school. The '08 crop of GOP candidates, though possessing aspects of Reagan, lacked the complete package. It will likely be 2012 by the time the first crop of Gen-R's emerge and make a run for the White House.
The first Gen-R presidential candidate is likely to be a politician who, instead of being a contemporary of Reagan, was a young admirer from afar. This person is likely to be someone who internalized so much of the 40th president that Reaganism comes naturally to him or her, a candidate who is reflexively and comfortably Reagan-esque and doesn't have to pretend to be so like many of the current crop of candidates.Mike Huckabee
Huckabee has Reagan's genial manner, anti-abortion street cred (it was Reagan who inserted a human life amendment into the GOP platform after all) and a generally conservative outlook on social issues. But the similarities seemed to end there and especially on the issue of taxes and spending, Huckabee was said by his conservative critics to look and sound more like Reagan's 1980 opponent, fellow Baptist Jimmy Carter then the Gipper.
John McCain projected American power in a Reaganesque manner but Reagan never labeled conservative Christians leaders as "agents of intolerance" and instead greeted them in 1980 with the now famous line "You can't endorse me but I endorse you!" Reagan, who owed his very career in politics to a group of rich men referred to as his "kitchen cabinet" and who financed his campaigns was opposed to McCain-style campaign finance reforms and would have likely taken a dim view of McCain's immigration policies.
Fred Thompson had many of Reagan's qualities--a genial actor with a conservative voting record and an adoring and smart wife who provided a solid foundation from which to run. Like Reagan, Thompson was reliably pro-life, pro-gun and anti-tax. And like Reagan, Thompson took his time on the campaign trail, reminding observers of Reagan's line that ''they say hard work 't kill you but I figure why take the chance?" But though Reagan did conserve his energy and let Carter and Mondale exhaust themselves while he paced himself like a fine thoroughbred, it's also true that he was a disciplined campaigner who relied heavily on his notecards (which he would slip out of his coat pocket and read from), and rarely showed up at speeches and just "winged it." By departing from Reagan's notion of federalism -- which allowed him to still support things like the Human Life Amendment -- Thompson lost valuable time and the support of perhaps millions of conservatives and putting himself on the defensive to charges that he wasn't a real conservative because of his refusal to support a national solution on issues like abortion and gay marriage.
Though he may have Reagan's movie star looks, Mitt Romney seemed to lack Reagan's foundational philosophy. Although he has apparently come to Reaganesque conclusions on a host of issues his inability to in any plausible way explain how he got there has led many GOP primary voters to believe that he cynically calculated what it would it take to win the GOP nomination and chose positions accordingly.
In addition to taking positions on social issues that were the opposite of Reagan's, Rudy Giuliani also obviously wasn't listening when Reagan laid out the principles for how men should behave with their wives: "Any man can always find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn't take all that much manhood," Reagan wrote to his son Michael on the night before his wedding.
That first Gen-R candidate is likely to be a politician who, instead of being a contemporary of Reagan, was a young admirer from afar. This person is likely to be someone who internalized so much of the 40th president that Reaganism comes naturally to him or her, a candidate who is reflexively and comfortably Reaganesque and doesn't have to pretend to be so like many of the current crop of candidates.
2012 will likely see the emergence of candidates like South Dakota Senator John Thune , Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal or Florida Congressman Adam Putnam -- all card-carrying members of Gen-R who may be ready to run for president. With the emergence of a new generation of politicians who took their first steps to the drumbeat of Ronald Reagan, those progressives who hoped that the Reagan Revolution ended in 1989 when the Gipper flew back to California, the long national nightmare may be just beginning.
Mark Joseph is a film producer and marketing expert who has worked on the development and marketing of 25 films. His most recent book is The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: Narnia's Journey To The Big Screen.