Thursday, January 24

No, No, No. You Need To Dig Up!

THE Slate, via TPM, which, in case you're Chris Matthews, is a leftist blog. Oh, and a "blog" is a web log. And the "web" is, oh fuck it, you aren't Chris Matthews:
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Monday one of the biggest frustrations of his presidential bid is dealing with national media that he says doesn’t correct inaccuracies about his candidacy and his record.

Some of those, he said, are pushed by the campaign of Democratic rival U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is locked in a tight race with Obama for the party’s nomination.

Obama, speaking Monday morning to State newspaper editors, cited as an example the reporting of his remarks about President Ronald Reagan as an inaccuracy that hasn’t been corrected. Obama, Clinton and John Edwards are appearing jointly during the King Day at the Dome march and rally Monday morning at the State House grounds.

Obama, speaking of remarks he made to a Nevada newspaper last week, told The State he wasn’t praising Reagan’s policies. Obama said was making a point that Reagan reached across party lines in order to snare a large majority of American voters that made it easier for him to push his agenda.

By attracting so-called Reagan Democrats, the California governor swept into office in 1980 and cruised to a 49-state landslide in 1984. Such big victories gave Reagan a mandate to push change. “Hopefully we can get some Obama Republicans and independents,” Obama said.

We get it, Senator. Our question is whether you get it, and whether your supporters get it, and why it seems to get worse. What you said you admired about Ronald Reagan is carefully constructed fiction. I don't know whether you believe in it yourself or were just using it cynically or out of frustration with the Clintons, but it's fiction nonetheless, and centrally, vitally, important to the Democratic narrative of the disaster that was the Reagan decade.

Reagan didn't "reach across party lines." He stood in one place for sixteen years until White backlash over the Civil Rights movement, the Religio-Culture wars begun in earnest with the school prayer decisions of 1961, a bad economy, and a hostage crisis he may have had something to do with perpetuating brought those voters to him. Reagan ran as an extreme partisan; he had no choice, since his hagiographies were still in the works in those days. He sure never ran a Kumbayah campaign. The public elected him, but it viewed him, first as the only alternative to Carter (pace John Anderson, pace Barry Commoner), then as an affable, polished salesman for Double Plusgood America N' Stuff. And America loves a good salesman, even when it detects the scent of bovine manure on his brogans. Even the electoral trouncing of Walter Mondale didn't buy him a Republican majority in Congress. He didn't need one. The Democratic leadership, which bit its own President in the late 70s, rolled over and whimpered for its belly to be scratched, and conservative Democrats, including the remaining Dixiecrats, were his anyway. The race with Carter was decided in the last ten days, while he foolishly sat in the Oval Office instead of campaigning; '84 saw the full flowering of the Through the Looking Glass media coverage we've enjoyed ever since. It isn't a question of admiring his policies; it's a question of whether he accomplished what you claim, in the way you say he did, and whether he did so admirably. Not to mention whether it makes us more or less inclined to sign on. It's a question of whether an entrenched Democratic leadership simply handed over those "Reagan Democrats" in exchange for a few more years of power, and sold out the party's base, the one you now seem to think doesn't much exist, or mean much.

And it is, maybe above all else, a question of just how contrived that Ronnie the Pathfinder narrative really is and who's involved in the contrivance. Reagan is legendary as the Teflon Man. He's legendary as the President who told the White House Press Corps to sit down and behave like frightened schoolchildren, to which they complied. A lot of us who lived through it imagine that Reagan could not have been portrayed as the Great Communicatin' Coalition Builder had he simply been portrayed fairly. For some reason Big Media, which was angling for control of the future of cable and the public airwaves, relaxation of media ownership limitations, a favorable labor climate, and a Justice Department that couldn't spell anti-trust, really loved the guy. And it didn't go unrequited.

We imagine that. Since the Democratic party of the time didn't stand up and fight for Democratic party ideals, we'll never really know for sure. But we do know what his record was, and we see very clearly that parts of it, at least, appear to have been re-written by Newt Gingrich, Spitz Channel, and Jackie Collins. Where, at long last, is the beef, Senator? The Reagan "bio" has been so thoroughly larded in twenty-five years that it's all lardoon.

Fight on, Senator. But wake up and smell the coffee you rarely drink, and put down the Mountain Dew. Your suggestion yesterday that you can take Clinton supporters votes for granted, but not she yours, is the latest sign of a campaign which appears, increasingly, not to have thought things through.


Anonymous said...

His Raygun statements were shocking to me, no matter how he meant them. All this time I had thought of him as being intelligent and well informed. I was planning on voting for him if he won the primary, now I'll just vote straight Green Party (I live in MA, there's no Nader-esque threat here).

D. Sidhe said...

And the "web" is, oh fuck it, you aren't Chris Matthews:

And so very, very grateful...

Prof. George Edward Challenger said...

Apparently Obama was misunderestimated.

"What I said—and I will provide you with a quote—what I said was is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to."

Here with BTC's takedown as well.


James Stripes said...

Reagan's 1984 landslide included more electoral votes, but a slighter popular margin than Nixon's 1972 landslide (McGovern carried a smaller state than Mondale). Perhaps, we should consider how bipartisan Nixon reached across party lines with his microphones if not in some other way.

Barack Obama, do you care to comment?

Herr Doktor Bimler said...

President Ronald Reagan as an inaccuracy that hasn’t been corrected
It's too late to add anything useful to this thread, but I just wanted to read that again.

bidziliba said...

I recall being at a wine tasting of good northwestern liberals in '83 or thereabouts. People were standing around a tv showing a Reagan press conference, and I happened to refer to him as a mass murderer, whereupon these liberals all looked at me like I was insane and jumped to his defense. Of course I was one of the one half of one percent of the vote which went to Barry Commoner in 1980, so I don't claim to be typical of the breed.

In truth J.G. Ballard sussed Reagan out when he was still governor of California. When the chapter of The Atrocity Exhibition entitled Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan was subject to an obscenity trial in the UK in the early 70's, the publisher's attorneys set out to depose Ballard, asking him to explain that the chapter wasn't intended to be a personal attack on the governor. Ballard replied that it was expressly intended as an attack on Reagan. He'd realized the increasing power of the media in political campaigns and saw that people would be fooled by the folksy grandpa act and not notice the fascist sentiments behind the facade. He predicted that Reagan would become president.

In 1980, some wags went so far as to distribute copies of the chapter, with its title excised, at the GOP convention, and the delegates accepted it as an objective analysis of Reagan's charisma.