Saturday, February 19, 2011

Everybody Loves Reagan

If Ronald Reagan was still alive, he would've turned 100 on Super Bowl Sunday. Actually, as far as the GOP is concerned, he IS still alive. And while their obsession with deifying Ronbo may continue, the hatred he inspires among liberal types has waned. This may be due to the last two guys who occupied the White House. George W. Bush, with his epic failures, has replaced Reagan as the ultimate right wing bogeyman of US politics. Barack Obama, meanwhile, has adopted positions so far to the right, he is easily more reactionary than Reagan ever was. The continued Bonzo-worship of him by the right and the collapse of criticism of him by the left is a case study of the Overton window framing him as more popular now than any time during his presidency.

The reframing of Reagan ignores history. Reagan was a divisive figure, with almost no support in the African-American community. Meanwhile, historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited The Reagan Diaries, told CNN The Gipper wanted to roll back the "excesses of the 'Great Society' domestically, not abolish them. He was never talking about doing away with Medicaid, Medicare, or abolishing HUD. It had more to do with trimming the federal budget." That actually sounds pretty reasonable and mainstream in 2011. Lou Cannon also explained that when it came to the Soviets, "he really wanted to negotiate and thought he had learned the art of doing so by bargaining with movie producers when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild." Hard to argue with that: after dealing with Hollywood producers, communist dictators would be a piece of cake. So maybe he deserves much of the credit given to him over the fall of communism.

Maybe you would expect more contempt and outrage over St. Ronald from The Konformist, but at this point, it seems any continued fixation on Ronald Reagan as the Anti-Christ would be an obtuse and unproductive obsession. There's bigger fish to fry out there.

In any case, one guy who has had a lot to do with enhancing the image of Ronald Reagan is Ron Reagan, his son. While Ron is an unabashed liberal, the genuine warmth apparent when he describes his father has helped humanize the once controversial figure. So for what it's worth, Ron Jr. pretty much dismisses Sarah Palin, who is trying to exploit the Reagan mantle for her own purposes: "Sarah Palin is a soap opera, basically. She's doing mostly what she does to make money and keep her name in the news. She is not a serious candidate for president and never has been,"

Reagan's myth has grown over time
Ed Hornick
February 5, 2011

Reagan's 100th birthday: 10 defining moments
Aaron Couch

Palin: America Out Of Step With Reagan's Values
February 5, 2011

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