February 12, 2011

Leadership by Fantasy

Last Sunday would have been President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, were he still alive, and the political world has been abuzz with praise and blindered hagiographies of America's 40th chief executive.  This year's meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) boasted an elaborate memorial cake,  there is a year-long celebration of the "Ronald Reagan Centennial," and proclaiming The Gipper to be one's favorite president has become table stakes for anyone looking to advance within the Republican Party.

In examining the historical record, however, it is abudantly clear that Ronald Reagan's status among the denizens of the policital right has become mythical in not just the figurative sense of the word, but the literal.  Today's conservatives justify all manner of policies and positions by invoking the name of Ronald Reagan, but these justifications - whether with regard to taxes, immigration, terrorism, the expansion of government, public spending, free trade, or even abortion rights - are almost completely untenable when compared to Mr. Reagan's actual deeds.

In fact, it is fair to say that the man who brought movement conservatism into the mainstream would be on the outside of the GOP looking in were he active in politics today.  Sound absurd?  It's not, and John Perr over at Perrspectives has done a very thorough job of desconstructing the Reagan Myth, using extensive citations around ten significant elements of Mr. Reagan's legacy that today, would have him tagged as RINO Reagan ("RINO" is an acronym: Republican In Name Only):
  1. Reagan tripled the national debt
  2. Reagan raised taxes 11 times
  3. Reagan expanded the size of government
  4. Reagan supported the "socialist" Earned Income Tax Credit
  5. Reagan negotiated with terrorists in Tehran
  6. Reagan sought to eliminate nuclear weapons
  7. Reagan gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants
  8. Reagan approved protectionist trade barriers
  9. Reagan signed abortion rights law in California
  10. Reagan eventually debunked AIDS myths Republicans continued to perpetuate
In reality, federal taxes today under President Barack Obama are lower than they were under our 40th president, and Ronald Reagan represents not the cornerstone of conservatism the modern right wing would have us believe, but rather, a marker denoting the beginning of a long - and ongoing - slide into an increasing extremism that is almost completely disassociated from the actions, beliefs and policies of Mr. Reagan himself.

It is a measure of how skewed to the right American politics has become that Mr. Obama is, in many ways, as - or more - conservative than Ronald Reagan, yet is derided as a "socialist."  It is a measure of how ignorant our discourse has become that stating that fact - and it is a fact, as illustrated above - publicy is almost certain to result in ridicule.  And it is a measure of how deeply hypocritical the current crop of Republican leaders is that they lionize a man who, were he alive and on the political stage today, they would clearly smear with every ounce of venom they use to denigrate the Democrat who currently occupies the White House.

In a perfect example of what I describe above, liberal blogger Mike Stark recently called in to conservative drug addict and Third World sex tourist Rush Limbaugh's radio show to ask just why Republicans are so enamored of Ronald Reagan, given the man's actual record.  As you can hear in the audio clip below, Mr. Limbaugh is caught completely flat-footed, and resorts to professing ignorance about Mr. Reagan's tax policies while declaring that GOP love for The Gipper is just something no one else can understand.


lokywoky said...

As far as I am concerned, and if a truely unbiased historical perspective is ever written about Reagan, it will be that he was the most destructive President we ever had. His selling of the big lie that the government is always bad - and his ability to charm that lie into the hearts and souls of the gullible population of this country has allowed the destruction of the relationship between the people and its governing institutions - something which any democracy cannot withstand. We as a country cannot withstand it and we are failing, and failing fast. If we do not find a way to undo this legacy from that shithead this country truly will not last.

That is the legacy from this moron. Nothing else matters. You can argue about his tax policies or the lies about his policies on this or that subject, but the lie that the government is bad - that one is the most damaging of all.

Our government is us - it is we the people. We are the government. By convincing us that the government is bad - he convinced us that we are all bad. That is how the people of this country became convinced that we don't deserve to have health care, good schools, any of the stuff that government is supposed to provide. He convinced us that we must look out for ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us - because we don't deserve to have anyone else to look out for us. After all - we are bad.

See how that works? That's how that stupid prosperity gospel works too. If you aren't rich - it's because you are bad. Obviously if you weren't you would be rich. So you must be bad and therefore you deserve to be poor and sick and homeless and all the rest.

Reagan did this to us. The bastard.

PBI said...

His selling of the big lie that the government is always bad... has allowed the destruction of the relationship between the people and its governing institutions - something which any democracy cannot withstand.

Well said - I agree.