Editor’s note: The follow post was written by a 25-year-old Republican strategist living and working in Washington D.C. He has his Juris Doctorate from Marquette University.
I feel kind of silly calling myself a ‘Ronald Reagan conservative.’ The Gipper died when I was 16 and I have only the faintest memory of watching his funeral on TV. Among younger Republicans, you’ll hear so much bravado about Reagan (which is ironic because most of us were barely on this earth when he was president) that sometimes it’s tough to tell where the truth ends and the embellishment begins.
As such, I’ve had to try to cling to the Republicans of my era, the 2000’s.
I really liked George W. Bush for most of his presidency (2008 was a rough year in our relationship, but time heals). I wasn’t crazy about John McCain in 2008; he was the decent looking girl who was there at bar time: better than the alternative.
And now I get Mitt Romney, forged in the same fire. Enthusiasm? What’s that?
I’ve been a small government, free market conservative my whole life. I would tell people in college and law school, when they would rip the “radicals” in the GOP, that I was more conservative than that. The Republican Party of the 2000’s felt like a Zucotti Park drum
circle to me. Then Mitt Romney did a crazy thing, something that I thought he wouldn’t do
because, in my estimation, it would sandbag his campaign: he chose one of those radicals,
Paul Ryan, as his running mate.
Suddenly, these ideas that I’ve had for years weren’t just free-floating hopes and dreams
anymore. Paul Ryan, a lightning rod of criticism for his “right-wing social engineering”
budget, could be the Vice President of the United States! For the first time in my life, the
Republican presidential candidate isn’t that questionably attractive girl at 2am. There’s real
substance behind the Republican ticket; Paul Ryan has shown the willingness to tackle an
issue that other politicians pretend doesn’t exist. Though I’m only 25 and I know I have a
lot left to learn, that’s leadership in my book.
After watching Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night, I was even more impressed. Political
wisdom says don’t touch the political third rail of Medicare and Paul Ryan charges in,
saying: “Our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.” Whoa.
Not only is Paul Ryan not going to tread lightly around the issue, he (and I’m sure ol’ Mitt
gets a say in this stuff here or there) wants to make this political third rail one of the focal
points of the campaign. That’s guts. That’s leadership. That’s absolutely unheard of in
politics today, from either side of the aisle.
Maybe this is how my dad felt in 1980, seeing the ascent of the great Ronald Reagan. I
wasn’t there, I don’t know. To me, Ronald Reagan is a by-gone era. I have nothing but the
utmost respect and admiration for Ronald Reagan (my friends and I toast the Gipper over
shots of whiskey every now and then), but I have to admit that it’s ignorant respect and
admiration. Reading a book about leadership does not compare to seeing true leadership in
For the first time in our lives, young Republicans like myself are seeing true political
leadership. (To be clear, I see George W. Bush’s post-9/11 leadership in a class of its own:
not political, just downright legendary.) Let’s not forget the greatness that was Ronald
Reagan, but let’s celebrate the leaders we have among us. Regrettably, I doubt Ronald
Reagan will be emerging from the grave to bury Obama under a pile of truth in the debates.
Rather than being the lesser of two evils, the Romney/Ryan ticket is offering a clear
alternative to the entitlement infested, tax-and-spend federal government. And I love it. So
the next time someone asks if I’m a Reagan conservative, I’m going to tell them: “No, I’m a
Paul Ryan conservative.”