This is in no way a criticism of Ronald Reagan. He was a very successful and popular president, with numerous good qualities. He is both a fascinating and important historical figure. But that is the problem: he is a HISTORICAL figure. It has been 20 years since he served in public office. The Republican party has been referring to him at an increasing and disturbing pace. They use his name like a magical incantation to try to ward off criticism and evidence of their own failure.
The problem with the GOP's endless referencing of Ronald Reagan is that I have no direct memories of the man. And I'm not alone. Roughly 20% of the American electorate has basically no memory of his presidency (interestingly, these same voters are increasingly voting Democrat), and the problem is only going to get worse. By 2012, half the voters will be too young to have been able to vote for Reagan. If the Republicans want to regain the majority, their rhetoric must not be stuck in the past.
It is understandable the Republicans feel the need to remind people after their last two presidents (one who was a mild failure and the other a complete disaster) that there is such a thing as a successful Republican president. The urge to try to revert back to a happy time is only natural. Much like a mid-aged, unemployed plumber, they seem unable to stop talking about their glory days playing football in high school. Unless the GOP is prepared to lose a whole generation, they need to start looking forward. My recommendation is a complete moratorium on using Reagan's name.