In addition to the 11 Republicans standing on the stage at the GOP Presidential Debate, there was a 12th that seemed as present as the rest. Like the candidates, his name, background and political history were discussed frequently throughout the night. In fact, this Republican's personal library and final resting place was the chosen location for the debate and even his personal plane was used as the backdrop for the candidates. That 12th Republican was former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
Since the years following his presidency, it would seem to almost anyone watching a modern day Republican debate, that Reagan serves as the epitome and symbol of American conservative politics. An argument could certainly be made, especially after watching this latest debate, that Reagan's presidency has become what nearly every Republican candidate aspires to when seeking the Oval Office.
What is especially interesting about the former President's legacy, is that it is regularly, yet biasedly, applied to many of today's pressing political issues. In other words, the hypothetical question, "What Would Reagan Do?", would only apply to some issues and not to others. While watching the most recent GOP debate, Reagan's presidency was looked at for answers to issues such as foreign policy (specifically dealing with Iran, Russia, and Vladimir Putin) and economic policy. But when other issues were discussed, such as gun control, the legalization of marijuana and immigration reform, the legacy of Reagan was not referred to for precendent. Reagan supported bans on military grade assault weapons, he was not in favor of States having the right to legalize marijuana (including both medical and recreational use), and he granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants. All three of these policies are not considered modern day Republican stances, and therefore Reagan does not serve as the example for modern day Republicans on these issues.
Despite the fact that some of Reagan's policies do not coincide with those of modern day Republicans, he is still hailed by many Republicans as a strong authority figure. For this reason, Reagan remains a part of the modern day Republican party. He is routinely elevated to a status rivaling that of a founding father when it is convenient. And when it is not convenient, Reagan is seen simply as a president that made his share of mistakes and nothing more.
Written by Wyatt Salsbury