Jon Chait has written a really important piece to help understand the current state of the GOP.
The political figures within the Republican party have created a cult-like devotion to Ronald Reagan. This devotion is detached from the actual realities of the Reagan administration. In the world of the Cult, Reagan only lowered taxes, never negotiated with his enemies and was tough on terrorists. In reality, he raised taxes several times, spent the last four years of his presidency working closely with Gorbachev and fled before the Beirut bombings before giving arms to Teheran.
The point of a cult, of course, is not an objective understanding of history. It is a form of tribal signifier. It creates in the member of form of belonging and separateness from non-cult members. Here are a few things on the "Am I in a Cult?" checklist that apply to Reagan worship:
You can't argue against Reagan and remain a viable Republican politician. Anyone who argues differently is shunned. David Stockman is a good example, but there are others.
The GOP has a combative attitude towards "libtards". While I find most conservative "ideas" repugnant and baffling, I'm more in a SMH state than DIAF state (OK, excepting elected members of the GOP).
The GOP is currently committed to reducing voting, which is a core tenet of American democracy, because some non-cultists are allowed to vote and ruin everything.
And then there is the Fox Bubble outside which no information is to be trusted.
American conservatism has always had a fond place for demagoguery. There have been figures like William Jennings Bryan who straddled conservatism and reform, but veneration of people over ideas is a common trait among conservatives in this country, which distinguishes them from classical conservatives who tended to trust institutions over people. This is why comparing American conservatives to English conservatives is unhelpful.
What is fascinating about the Reagan Demagoguery is, of course, that he is dead. His imagined place in history is a form of retroactive demagoguery more in keeping with a cult than a political party.
As long as the GOP is married to Zombie Reagan, they won't be able to move forward into the new realities of the 21st century.