Gipper Nostalgia Recalls A Time Few Remember

Posted September 3, 2008 at 3:57pm

A nostalgic pack of conservatives longing for the days of supply-side economics will be toasting to the Gipper and all things 1980s tonight at the American Conservative Union Foundation’s “Tribute to the Reagan Revolution” shindig.

The ode to President Ronald Reagan and the 1980s, when conservatives celebrated the ouster of a sitting Democratic president, solid control of the Senate and a strong following among Southern voters, will kick off at the posh Aqua Night Club in downtown Minneapolis. Reliving the era of wild fashions and an even bolder anti-Soviet foreign policy, guests will enjoy a five-hour trip back in time. The party will also feature arcade games and an appearance by Ms. Pac-Man. Jelly beans, Reagan’s favorite treat in the White House, will be in abundant supply to munch on while guests fiddle with Rubik’s Cubes and snap photos with Polaroid cameras.

“It was such a fun period with good music and fashion,” said Liz Neaton, 22, who was barely a toddler during the second Reagan administration. “I don’t remember him as a sitting president, [but] I vaguely remember seeing things on television.”

Neaton, a Minnesota native and recent college graduate, just finished an internship with the ACU and will soon join the association full time as a finance assistant. Like other guests who will arrive in leggings, shoulder pads and beaded hair clips, Neaton plans to celebrate by wearing a funky dress or bright colors rather than the button-down look popular among some Reaganites in the 1980s.

“I probably won’t go completely all out, but I’ll have some fun with it,” she said. “Leggings are big right now, so I might go with that. I have a few fun dresses, too.”

Illinois Republican Party spokesman Lance Trover, a “big ’80s music fan” who prefers Genesis and the Police, will likely skip the ACU bash, but the 28-year-old appreciates the festive theme.

“It really speaks to the impact Ronald Reagan had,” Trover said. “If younger people see that level of excitement, it can serve as an inspiration.”

He added with a laugh: “I went to an ’80s birthday party a while ago, and someone even dressed up like Reagan. It was honestly one of the more fun parties I’ve been to.”

ACU Executive Vice President Dennis Whitfield, who helped organize the event, served in both of Reagan’s terms, first as chief of staff for the United States trade representative and then as deputy secretary of Labor. ACU organizers hope the raucous gathering of 1,000 at Aqua, with a well-stocked bar and constant stream of fist-pumping tunes, will also stir up enthusiasm for the organization.

“If we can finish up Thursday night with more people knowing what the ACU does, which is support conservative ideals, than we’ll be in good shape,” Whitfield said.

At “a young 60 years old,” Whitfield will be among the more seasoned guests with vivid memories of Reagan, whom he hailed for his free-market economics and anti- Soviet Union foreign policy.

The ACU hopes to bring a younger set into the mix. While the party’s 9 p.m. start time overlaps with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) acceptance speech, organizers expect that most guests won’t hit the dance floor until after their nominee leaves the stage. At that point, it’s back to the future for the conservative set.

“We know the vast majority coming to this thing will be in the convention hall, but we’ll get a flood of people after the speech” an ACU spokesman predicted. “It’s a good way to end the week on a high note.”