TLP: Could Ronald Reagan, That Ronald Reagan, Win Tea Party Votes?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 , , , 10 Comments

reagan tea party
Part of the Tea Party's appeal to its followers is the rhetoric that says things are massively fucked up and would be so much better if we could only get rid of that socialist Obama and the Democratic Congress. Misty-eyed recollections of Ronald Reagan are not uncommon amid the borderline nutjobbery.

But misty eyes don't always see clearly. At least, that's the take from CNN contributor John P. Avalon, who uses a Reagan campaign speech for Barry Goldwater to both cite Reagan's influence on the Tea Party and offer a reality check on the idol worship.

The nationally televised address, known as "A Time for Choosing," is a classic — smart, funny and still so resonant that the rhetoric Reagan used more than 50 years ago echoes in Tea Party protests today.

Reagan tried to raise the stakes of the election with a vision of apocalyptic ideological conflict, pitting heroic defenders of the Founding Fathers' vision against big-state bureaucrats, willfully wasting taxpayer dollars on counterproductive do-gooder programs that are dragging America toward socialism.

Consistent with the Tea Party's self-image, it was primarily an economic speech, advancing a small-government libertarian economic philosophy, making statistics come alive with talk of fallen empires and American history, arguments aided by the added urgency of global conflict with communism. There is the specter of growing government power eclipsing the Constitution, the perverse incentives of the welfare state as an insult to hardworking individuals, all culminating in a citizens' resistance against elite liberals ruling by fiat from Washington.

It is compelling stuff, with the pitch-perfect delivery of a trained actor finally getting to recite his own lines. Speakers echo its themes from stages today almost like a tribute band. But, of course, times have changed a lot since 1964 — and so some questions arise.
Those questions? Avalon asks how the Tea Party can be so nostalgic for a time at which Reagan said, "freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment." Why didn't Reagan address civil rights, a dominant issue at the time (and one that this year burned Tea Party fave Rand Paul)? And where did the Reaganesque civility go?

More CNN:
Reagan never attacks then-President Lyndon Johnson by name, and he is even careful to use the phrase "our liberal friends" when slapping the domestic left. He does not question their patriotism or call them communists — after all, the Cold War was still on, and that insult seemed more idiotic and offensive than it does now.

There is a final irony — the Reagan who was elected governor of California in 1966 and ran for president in 1980 would have a hard time getting the GOP nomination today. The self-appointed sentinels of conservatism would have taken issue with the fact that as governor, Reagan raised taxes by a billion dollars to close a budget gap and increased the size of the state workforce by 50,000. He also raised taxes as president.
Goldwater, of course, lost and it was another dozen years before Reagan ran for president, unsuccessfully, before winning the next time around. It's also true that American voters did elect Obama and the Democratic Congress two years ago. But politics is always about what's ahead. Even when you're looking back.

The Lazy Paperboy

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.


Anonymous said...

"freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment."

Personally, I think that statement is always true. Freedom and autonomy comes at a cost – as most things worthwhile do. Those privileges require a willingness to take responsibility for one’s action (or inaction) and some willingness to take a pass on the little temptations and carrots held out in front of us on a day to day basis. Sometimes they require us to recognize our fuck-ups and cut our losses even though we may have made large and foolish past investments in those fuck-ups. It’s a republic only if you can keep it, right? To me, the worst part of our human make-up when it comes to American politics is that we either “make golden calves” (that’s why I love the mocking JDA coined phrase OMGObama so much) or we demonize. But, there is still a lot “right” about American politics. We wouldn’t be “discussing” this for very long if we had an Uncle Joe in power, right?


W.C. Varones said...

Ditto Jeff.

TLP, is this kind of cheap shot on Reagan and the Tea Parties really productive? No politician is going to be perfect on all issues over a long career.

Why don't you do similar hit pieces on darlings of the left - FDR and Manzanar, LBJ and Vietnam, Carter and Cambodia...

If Reagan's greatest sins over his multi-generational career are that he was more vocal about individual liberty than civil rights and that he compromised a few times on taxes, that's a pretty strong testament to the man.

Meanwhile, where have nearly all Washington Democrats been on the crucial issues of big government and individual liberty the past decade? Not just silent, but adamantly on the wrong side.

Hello, gentlemen. Seems like it's morning again in America ...

Blind hypocrisy is always fair game and regularly stirs me from my preferred state of laziness. It's not Reagan and what he did or stood for, but the uninspired broadbrush treatment he gets from today's rabble, many of whom would likely be surprised to learn that Reagan had a political career before he won the White House.

Feel free to refutiate me.

It's precisely because there was more to Reagan than where he ended up that makes Avalon's essay interesting. As for LBJ and Carter, they haven't seemed to attract much of a throng recently. Which says something all by itself.

Anonymous said...

I’m waiting for a Reaganesque executive style of leadership in dealing with public sector employee unions – a la the PATCO experience with Ronnie Raygun. Lord knows you folks in California are in desperate need of the same. Now, I will not say that unions are entirely a bad thing. They do help to keep regular working stiffs from being abused but, absolute power corrupts absolutely and unions are not immune to that logic.

A big hump day, leopard-pattern Snuggie hug from fly over country!


Anonymous said...

TLP, I don't think it is blind hypocrisy so much as it is blind faith and "rose colored glasses" which are dangerous. It's the T.S. Eliot (St. Louis native but I won't gloat) quote:
Humankind cannot stand too much reality.


Anonymous said...

"...blah, blah, blah...knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing...blah, blah, blah"

-1964 damned if that ain't a little fucking spooky...

Anonymous said...

"But, of course, times have changed a lot since 1964 — and so some questions arise"

No, I don't think so. The stage and props may be a little different and the actors are certainly different and the musical score has been brought up to speed to satisfy modern tastes but the plot is more or less the same.

This time is different - 8 centuries of financial folly

Anonymous said...

Public sector employees have taken a nice long length of rope and hung themselves with it. There's gonna be some people needing anger management sessions come fall. Shit, who knows what the unwashed masses will elect in that environment.

Anonymous said...

“At the same time the country is being squeezed, public-sector unions are a rising political force in the Democratic Party,” he said. “They depend on extra money for the public sector, and that puts the Democrats in a difficult position. In four big states — New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California — the public-sector unions have largely been untouched by the economic downturn. In those states, you have an impeding clash between the public-sector unions and the public at large.”

clash??? with the public at large (said with my Foghorn Leghorn accent)???! yikes!

W.C. Varones said...

It's not blind faith nor hypocrisy.

Reagan was great, not perfect.

Tea Parties are great, not perfect.