2016 Republicans are invoking Ronald Reagan. They're doing it wrong.

The GOP's presidential candidates are drawing incorrect lessons from the 1980s

Ronald Reagan in 1982.
(Image credit: (Illustrated | Image courtesy Michael Evans/The White House/Getty Images))

Republicans are Reaganing again. During his presidential announcement speech last month, Ted Cruz told his Liberty University audience to try and "imagine" they were listening to Ronald Reagan back in 1979 and "he was telling us that we would cut the top marginal tax rates from 70 percent all the way down to 28 percent, that we would go from crushing stagnation to booming economic growth, to millions being lifted out of poverty and into prosperity [and] abundance."

This was not a big ask. The legacy of Ronaldus Maximus, as Rush Limbaugh calls America's 40th president, continues to thoroughly infuse the modern GOP. Like the Force, Reagan's aura surrounds and penetrates Republicans, binding the party's various wings — social conservative, business, tea party, libertarian — together. A generation after Reagan left office and a decade after his death, party politics and policy must still pass through the WWRD — "What would Reagan do?" — filter. This is especially true when it comes to taxes. Just listen to how Rand Paul recently defended his promise of "the largest tax cut in American history" on Fox News:

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