Reagan's Relevance in an Age of Republican Purity Tests

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In an effort to purify the GOP, conservative activists within the Republican National Committee have distributed a test to measure candidates' party orthodoxy. It consists of 10 core issues the party officially endorses. The RNC activists argue that any candidate who doesn't agree with at least eight should be stripped of funding. Why eight? They allow two "wrong" answers out of deference to Ronald Reagan's saying that "someone who agreed with him eight out of 10 times was his friend, not his opponent." The purity test has prompted many observers to ask why Reagan continues to hold such sway over the GOP long after his era ended, urging the party to move on. Has Reagan become irrelevant? Here are some recent takes explaining why the Gipper still has plenty to offer:

  • We Need Reagan's Clarity, Not Purity, write Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson in Commentary, a neoconservative magazine: "Republican leaders need leeway to reshape the appeal of their tarnished institution, just as Reagan did, patiently and consistently, over the years he spent preparing his run for the presidency. The need of the moment is not for greater 'ideological purity' (a phrase which Reagan himself abhorred) but for greater clarity; not for louder voices but for more thoughtful and persuasive ones; not for retrenchment but for outreach; not for building a bridge to the past but for creativity and innovation for the moment and for the future."
  • Regan's Still Relevant--to Obama, writes Howard Fineman in Newsweek. He reports that the president and his advisers are crafting Obama's image to resemble Reagan's: "A democratic president, you'd think, would stick to Franklin D. Roosevelt or Jack Kennedy as role models. Not Barack Obama... He thinks he is Reagan in reverse--a patient, genial game changer for the ages." Although Fineman says Obama doesn't truly understand the Regean legacy, the similarities are there: "Like Reagan, Obama shares a celebrity's sense of comfort on the (public) stage, a belief in sticking to the script, and a faith in the power of the written word spoken from an imposing rostrum. He also shares Reagan's reverence for the power of a narrative in politics--Reagan, because he was an actor; Obama, because he is a writer."
  • We Need Reagan's Confidence, writes David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy. Though he's no fan of Reagan's policies, he says America will need a Reagan-like character to step in after Obama leaves and reassert America's role in the world. America is facing a "new crisis of confidence," he writes. "Which is precisely where the next 'Ronald Reagan' comes in. Whomever he or she is, they will offer a credible case that it can once again be morning in America. They will, like Reagan, have the advantage of their predecessor having taken the heat for many of the measures required to get out of the crisis. But they will also, like Reagan, have to offer an ideology suited to the times and to the American spirit."

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