The unfailing reverence on the American right for Ronald Reagan is understandable. He was the only exemplar of modern conservatism to win the White House, and unlike liberal icons such as Roosevelt or Johnson or Obama, he presided over an economic boom and became beloved by voters not normally drawn to his party. No wonder that Reagan, long before his death in 2004, attained mythical status in the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
But that myth has become a burden for the modern GOP. It has bound Reagan’s followers on the right to policies and positions that were time-specific. The old guard has become convinced that Reagan’s solutions to the problems of his time were the essence of conservatism — not simply conservative ideas appropriate for that era.