Moving beyond Reagan

MOVING BEYOND REAGAN…. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has some radical advice for his party: maybe now would be a good time to get over Reagan and start looking ahead.

Like most Republicans, Pawlenty pays homage to the Reagan legacy. At the same time, he is urging his party to get beyond its Reaganite past. Pawlenty, 48, presented his vision of Reagan 2.0 at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last weekend. Judging by his ninth-place finish in a straw poll, the party may not be ready to move on.

The old Republican orthodoxy of limited government, lower taxes and conservative social policies needs an update if the party hopes to challenge Democrats on issues such as health care, energy and education, he said.

“We need to develop new Ronald Reagans and new reference points,” Pawlenty said in an interview after addressing CPAC. “It would be as if Barack Obama was going around and constantly talking about Truman or LBJ. It’s just become a reference point that isn’t as relevant for young people.”

I suspect this won’t go over well. Just this past weekend, Rush Limbaugh castigated those conservatives who are “trying to throw Reagan out.”

Indeed, in the same interview, Pawlenty seemed to already be backpedaling a bit, stressing the need to “continue to honor and respect and remember Ronald Reagan.” His point, he said, is that “if you’re under 40, people didn’t live through the Reagan era.”

I’d go a little further. Even for those who did live through the Reagan era (I was 15 when he left office), the 40th president was hardly considered a political deity by the American electorate.

Regardless, Pawlenty’s suggestion about a forward-thinking party seems like a sensible approach for the Republican Party. I can only assume, then, that he’ll apologize for his comments before the end of the day.