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The Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­di­dates com­mem­o­rated the anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth on Sat­urday. But, far from hon­oring his legacy, the can­di­dates utterly failed to exhibit his virtues of states­manship.

The average Repub­lican voter fre­quently says that he wants to vote for the next Reagan. But, in this hunt for a Reagan clone, we have lost sight of the important virtues of states­manship he dis­played.

The statesman must under­stand the fun­da­mental ques­tions of the day. Reagan under­stood the threat of the Soviet Union. He under­stood the pit­falls of the welfare state and the breakdown of the con­sti­tu­tional order. In his public speeches, he addressed the root problems of his time. Reagan was able to talk about con­ser­v­ative phi­losophy and first prin­ciples.

Most of this election’s Repub­lican can­di­dates — notably Donald Trump, the three gov­ernors, and (to a lesser extent) Marco Rubio — cri­tique the Obama Admin­is­tration on the grounds of com­pe­tency, not con­sti­tu­tion­ality. These can­di­dates rarely mention the Con­sti­tution, and almost never talk about natural law or the rights of men. Even the Repub­lican can­di­dates who habit­ually talk about the Con­sti­tution, such as Ted Cruz or the recently-departed Rand Paul, rarely delve deep enough to acknowledge the dra­matic moral dif­fer­ences and the oppo­si­tional under­standings of justice that sep­arate the Right and the Left.

Effec­tively, the can­di­dates running today have moved away from the platform of small-gov­ernment con­ser­vatism Reagan ran on in 1980. The con­ser­v­ative movement in the 20th century pred­i­cated its pol­itics on a rejection of the admin­is­trative state. Today’s can­di­dates are pri­marily con­cerned with how to run the admin­is­trative state better than their liberal coun­ter­parts. And the American voters are vin­di­cating this move.

Instead of sub­stantive thought on urgent matters, American voters seem to be attracted to Rea­ganesque rhetoric. What they fail to under­stand is that simply sounding like Ronald Reagan or promising to cut taxes or “Make America Great Again” is not the same as pos­sessing the virtues which made Ronald Reagan one of the most con­se­quential con­ser­v­ative politi­cians of the twen­tieth century.

Con­sis­tently, these alleged “Reagan con­ser­v­a­tives” support big gov­ernment pro­grams. When was the last time Trump, Rubio, or Cruz promised to end the Department of Edu­cation, or disarm the EPA, or pri­vatize the TSA? Until sub­stantive, spe­cific policy action is promised on issues related to the size and scope of the federal gov­ernment, the “Rea­ganesque” rhetoric is just a way to beautify speeches made in support of admin­is­trative law.

Take Marco Rubio’s per­for­mance last Sat­urday. He repeated four times an assertion that Pres­ident Obama is seeking to rad­i­cally transform the United States of America. But Rubio didn’t offer spe­cific ideas about rolling back the admin­is­trative state, of restoring a culture rooted in tra­dition, and reversing this tragic trans­for­mation.

Prior to Reagan taking office, the Her­itage Foun­dation issued a report detailing over 2,000 ways to move the federal gov­ernment rightward. By the end of Reagan’s first term in office, about 60 percent of those pro­posals had been imple­mented.

Marco Rubio has no such plan to reduce the size and scope of the federal gov­ernment. He, and other can­di­dates, have shown little interest in such a plan. And that is a problem.

Donald Trump has shown absolutely no interest what­soever in specifics, either. His cam­paign speeches and policy papers are devoid of any serious appli­cation of prin­ciple to policy. I suspect that this is because, unlike Reagan, Trump has no prin­ciples, and “making America great again” is simply a cam­paign plat­itude.

Out of all the can­di­dates still in the running, Ted Cruz has shown the most interest in the appli­cation of prin­ciple to policy. However, most of his appeal is found in rhetoric, not a real­istic approach to pol­itics founded on con­ser­v­ative prin­ciples. Cruz talks about the Con­sti­tution, and occa­sionally Amer­icans’ his­toric and inherent rights, but this is largely lip service. Cruz has done little in Wash­ington besides grand­stand, whereas Ronald Reagan served as a gen­uinely con­ser­v­ative gov­ernor in Cal­i­fornia.

Our can­di­dates truly do not believe in the urgency of the con­ser­v­ative mission to restore the con­sti­tu­tional order. They are dem­a­gogues using con­ser­v­ative phi­losophy and rhetoric to accrue support and solidify their estab­lishment in Wash­ington, D.C.

What the con­ser­v­ative movement needs is not another Reagan parrot. What we need is a statesman, who under­stands the par­ticular problems of our time, who under­stands the philo­sophical roots of the American exper­iment, and who shows true pru­dence instead of Catonian stub­bornness or weakness in the face of dif­ficult deci­sions.

We fast approach a crisis, and it is time for con­ser­v­a­tives to get serious about states­manship and talk tough about small gov­ernment. And the current field simply isn’t acting like Reagan..