The Reagan boyhood home’s independence made it a rallying point for conservatives. Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform and the Reagan Legacy Project, told the Washington Times, “I’m not in favor of the government owning property, never mind Reagan’s house.” In a 2013 report about the “congressional shortsightedness and bureaucratic mismanagement” around U.S. national parks, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma used the Reagan house as evidence that historic sites could be just fine in private hands, writing that the home had recently reported an annual net income of $172,000 and “can manage its affairs just as well as many of the nonprofits administering the nation’s celebrated presidential sites.”
Now, though, it turns out the mantle of Reaganism might be too much for Reagan’s boyhood home and his small hometown to carry. The Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation, beset by shrinking attendance, a shortage of volunteer docents, an aging house and—crucially—the death of its most generous benefactor, is finally asking the government for a bailout. And this time, it’s basically inviting Congress to name its price.