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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Obama's Reagan

In my Audacity of Hype post earlier this week I castigated uncritical Obamaniacs that Hope Without Fight Is Hype and tried to illustrate this point with what I imagined at the time to be something of a stretch as analogies go: Reagan talked about hope. Reagan talked about "Morning in America" as he set out to destroy the achievements of the New Deal and the Summer of Love. That's when our long national nightmare of corporatism and theocratic pandering began.

Who knew that within hours Obama would embrace this connection to Reaganite "hope" explicitly and insistently on his own?

As Matt Stoller pointed out at Open Left at the time:
Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable.

Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement. The libertarian anti-government ideology of an unaccountable large liberal government was designed by ideological conservatives to take advantage of the backlash against these 'excesses'.

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so. Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power.

Given the fact that Obama has criticized the gulf between Reagan's tone and his actual policies, and given the fact that Obama was organizing on the streets of Chicago to ameliorate the impact of Reagan's policies on the most vulnerable people, I think it is wrong to suggest that Obama agrees with Reagan's rhetoric, but it is profoundly disturbing that he would opportunistically appropriate that rhetoric despite his experience and disagreement.

As usual, it is John Edwards who responds as a person of democratic left actually should:
“When you think about what Ronald Reagan did to the American people, to the middle class to the working people,” said Edwards.

“He was openly -– openly -– intolerant of unions and the right to organize. He openly fought against the union and the organized labor movement in this country. He openly did extraordinary damage to the middle class and working people, created a tax structure that favored the very wealthiest Americans and caused the middle class and working people to struggle every single day. The destruction of the environment, you know, eliminating regulation of companies that were polluting and doing extraordinary damage to the environment.”

“I can promise you this: this president will never use Ronald Reagan as an example for change.”

Some of us also remember the early devastating AIDS epidemic sweeping through the gay community without a word of support, comfort, or recognition from Ronald Reagan.

Some of us remember the lies about "Welfare Queens" he used to justify horrible callous, usually racist rhetoric about vulnerable fellow citizens.

Some of us remember illegal drugs sold on the streets of our cities to pay for illegal arms to the Contras and torturers and death-squads, while Nancy piously suggested we "Just Say No" as the racist War on Drugs ramped up here.

Some of us remember that an extreme minority of anti-democratic fundamentalist zealots started calling themselves "The Moral Majority" in the Reagan years.

Some of us remember Reagan telling us "government is the problem" and then seeing to it that whenever Republicans are in charge they would damn well prove it.

Some of us remember how Reagan sold the lie that giving to the rich and taking from the poor would create prosperity that would "trickle down" to the poor anyway.

Some of us remember Reagan tearing down Carter's solar panels from the White House and his choice of James Watt as environment secretary.

Some of us remember "Ronbo" belligerently making war noises, throwing his weight around, and joking about nuclear strikes.

Some of us remember PATCO, and Reagan's war on the unions that created a democratizing middle class (even if it never managed to extend to people of color as it so urgently needed to do).

Ronald Reagan was an evil bastard and he set the stage for the even worse Killer Clowns of the present Administration.

Feel good bullshit about the affable Gipper is dishonest and dangerous and damaging and we will not stand for it.

The Villagers don't get to cough up their lying hairball of common wisdom for the rest of us to swallow down anymore. The Netroots are a self-critical public defined by linking practices that encourage fact-checking, collective scrutiny, and a registration of multiple perspectives, rather than consumers of elite incumbent mass-mediation: that's why we are called the "reality-based community."

If you are audacious enough to hope in the midst of our present distress, I suggest you look to the dem-left people-powered peer-to-peer politics of the emerging technoprogressive mainstream, rather than the evil architects of Movement Conservatism for the substance of your inspiration.


Greg in Portland said...

Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable.

So Obama's got the Alzheimer's now too. He's already forgotten that he's running as a Democrat.

Jake said...

More about the truth of the matter here:

Dale Carrico said...

The truth of the matter to which you direct readers is a transcript of the speech literally delivered in the YouTube clip included in the body of this post. Nothing Edwards said about Reagan was untrue, and everything he said about Reagan deserving no praise from Democrats "as an example of change" was spot on. I raised no other issues than these at all in this post, so I'm not sure if you think I'm mistaken or being untruthful about anything actually published here in this post?