HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

 
You Sir, Are No Ronald Reagan

by digby

... and thank God for that.

I'm a bit baffled by this statement by Senator Obama:

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."


I hate to say it because I'm going to get mercilessly roasted alive, but with all that jargon about government growing and growing without "accountability in terms of how it was operating" and "dynamism" and "entrepreneurship" it sounds an awful lot like DLC boiler plate. They capitulated to the "Reagan Revolution" hype exactly that way in the 1980's and developed an entire political strategy around it. Here's their biggest star, with the movement fully realized in 1992:

In the global economy of the 1990s, economic growth won't come from government spending. It will come instead from individuals working smarter and learning more, from entrepreneurs taking more risks and going after new markets, and from corporations designing better products and taking a longer view...

Too many Washington insiders of both parties think the only way to provide more services is to spend more on programs already on the books in education, housing, and health care. But if we reinvent government to deliver new services in different ways, eliminate unnecessary layers of management, and offer people more choices, we really can give taxpayers more services with fewer bureaucrats for the same or less money.


The idea was to go to the middle, work with moderate Republicans to "get things done" in new and modern ways --- the third way, actually. The thanks that pragmatic Democrat got was that the Republicans (with the help of the press) mercilessly harassed him, impeached him and then stole the election from his successor. From where I sit today it didn't work out too well for Democrats in the long run. (And I'm not sure either Bill or Hill have actually absorbed that ugly truth either --- or took the right lessons from it.)

I'm not saying that Obama is DLC. But the interpretation of that election as being a reaction against liberalism and big government certainly is and that acceptance of their myth has served conservatives very well. There's a reason their movement has developed this ridiculous St. Ronnie hagiography --- it's to inextricably associate their dark, divisive ideology with his carefully manufactured cheerful persona. It protects their movement from the harmful consequences of their wrecking ball policies. "We're not like those losers --- we're the party of Reagan, the sunny, optimistic, winner everybody loved! Look, here's our new Reagan! Vote for him!" (Check this scary thing out. And this from the man who said bipartisanship is date rape.)

I get that Obama is signaling that he sees this election as a game changing election like 1980. And he may very well be right about that. I hope so. But it's disconcerting to hear him casually recount these Republican arguments without a clear disclaimer, as if it's a matter of fact not opinion. People may have believed in 1980 that the "excesses" of the 1960's and the 1970's were the cause of all their problems and that government had "grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating" but that doesn't make it true. Republican propaganda conveniently offered up all kinds of scapegoats for the fact that the US was reeling from Vietnam, Watergate, a terrible oil shock --- and a lousy economy as a result of all those things. An awful lot of the "excesses" Reagan spoke of in carefully coded speech had to do with civil rights and more urgently at the time, integration, specifically busing, which was one of the hot buttons that drove the "Reagan Democrats" outside the south to the Republicans. And then there was the relentless, militant fear mongering about the Evil Empire ...

Remember, Reagan didn't run on "Morning in America" in 1980. That was 1984. 1980 was the much more aggressive, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Look, I know this is weedy stuff and probably doesn't matter to the average voter under the age of 45. But to long time liberals who lived through this period as an adult, it's like waving a red flag in our faces. Reagan ran explicitly against the left(and in the process normalized the kind of indecent talk that made Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter millionaires.) Because he won big in 1984, leaders in both parties accepted this omnipotent Reagan myth and have run against liberalism ever since --- and have ended up, through both commission and omission, advancing the destructive conservative policies that brought us to a place where we are debating things like torture. It would be helpful if ending the era of Democrats running against the liberal base could be part of this new progressive "trajectory."

Read Rick Perlstein's excellent discussion of the fallacy of extending Reagan's rancid myth:

... accepting the right's successful fantasy-frame about what Reagan was all about surrenders to one of their most successful strategies: affecting innocence about the terrible consequences of their own ideology in the here and now—helping conservatism, as an ideology, survive to fight another day...


They are not dead yet, far from it. It's not good to help them keep their myths alive while they recover from their bloodsucking overindulgence of the past couple of decades. If it's absolutely necessary to reach out to independents and Republicans in the primary, there are better ways to do it than evoking the name of the patron saint of the radical conservative movement.

Update: I hate doing this on the wrong post, but it's necessary. To those Obama supporters who insist on making the strawman argument that I'm saying Obama will govern like Reagan, I suggest you read the post again.

I'm saying that he advanced the Reagan Myth, which was based upon conservative propaganda devised for the specific purpose of keeping the conservative movement viable even when it is out of power and restricting any possibility of advancing progressive programs. That's the whole point of the Reagan myth. I tried to point out that Democrats have been doing this, to their own disadvantage, for years now. Accepting the view that Reagan responded to the view that liberal excess and big government were ruining the country is a grave misreading. Reagan, and the conservative movement that nurtured him, created that view and its hellspawn have advanced it ever since.

But I was wrong is saying you should never evoke Reagan at all. There's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Rick Perlstein, who as far as I know has taken absolutely no public position in this primary and has no dog in the fight, explained it elegantly in an email this morning:

Reagan didn't praise FDR. He stole from him. As in, "This generation has a rendez vous with destiny." We should steal from Reagan too. As in: "There is no left and right. Only up or down." He would then use that intro to frame some outrageously right-wing notion as "common sense." We should do the same for left-wing ideas.

Also, use Reagan to mess with righties' heads. As in: I agree we need a Reaganite foreign policy. When Reagan realized we were caught in the crossfire of a religious civil war in Lebanon, he got the hell out. He would have done the same thing in Iraq.The rule isn't "never say anything nice about Reagan." It's "use Reagan for progressive ends."

Obama failed that test.

.