LOS ANGELES | Ronald Reagan is dead. He died June 5, 2004.
A decade has passed, along with the era of conservative Californians — yet California Republicans who supported him refuse to bury him. The West Coast GOP refuses to understand that Reaganism — that is to say, social conservatism and supply-side economics — is not being used or accepted, nor will it (in all likelihood) ever return statewide.
California is no longer a Reagan-type state — if it ever was. Rather, the Golden State has become the Welfare State, with a people hopelessly addicted to entitlement programs and legalized medical marijuana. It is a state full of people who no longer strive to work for a living, who would rather accept a handout from the government, and for whom smoking marijuana eases the stress of being a leech of the state. People in California could not survive without government subsidy programs — and since the GOP has a full and total disdain for these programs, the GOP in California is as dead as Ronald Reagan is.
The California GOP needs to adopt new strategies to contend with a state that Reagan would no longer recognize, and market their brand to a generation of first-time voters who know nothing about him. By refusing to bury the Gipper, the Republican Party in California has failed to adapt to help the urban communities that once voted for Reagan in four times the numbers that they voted for Mitt Romney or John McCain in the last two presidential elections.
Yet the apotheosis of Reagan is not complete even within the party. The GOP in California is just as guilty as the Democrats of expanding government. During his first term as governor of California, Reagan temporarily stopped government hiring, and slowed the growth of the state government's workforce. Even when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, the growth of government continued in un-Reaganesque manners.
While California’s welfare system balloons of control, there are no GOP faithful reminding the state that it was Gov. Reagan that worked with the Democratic majority in the State Legislature to enact major reform of the welfare system in 1971. The GOP has clung to the staunch conservatism of Reagan but has failed to remember that it was Reagan who reached across the aisle to build bridges and solve problems; indeed, there was a bloc of congressmen famously referred to as “the Reagan Democrats.” Today, there are no bridges, there are no solved problems.
Reagan’s legacy is admirable. Yet the party can no longer run on the legacy of a man who left the governorship in the '70s and the presidency in the '80s. Decades later, it is time for new solutions, for new ideas, for new strength. California, in general, and the urban voters dying for change, in particular, need the GOP to allow Reagan to be buried.
The Gipper must finally be allowed to rest in peace, once and for all.