Friday, January 18

Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Wow, this comes as a shock.

LEMME say first that I'm sitting here trying to be reasonable about this. I believe that people deserve to have their words heard as intended, and we should err on the side of charity when humanly possible. The definition of a liberal as a man who sees every side but his own, well, I'm not a Liberal, but that's a pretty good joke rendition of the theology I grew up with, and I think the real joke is there's a lot to be said for it. And like ol' Sam said about Christianity, it's a real shame nobody's ever tried it.

So, really, although there ain't much worse you could utter as a Presidential candidate than how much you admire Ronald Wilson Reagan, unless you wish to add a few details to show that admiration is the result of swallowing Reagan hagiographies by the volume, I'm willing to turn the thing around once or twice and see if something useful cain't be made of it. I'm willing to read three or four Oborg posts to see if somebody else has picked up some nuance I may have missed, and I'll do so without mentioning their names. Okay, I'm ready now.

On second thought, fuck that. You think there's ugly partisanship afoot today? Too bad you're too young to have taken a seat in People's Park, Berkeley, in 1969, so you could have experienced Ronald Reagan changing the trajectory of American politics one load of buckshot at a time, and reported back on how much you enjoyed that fundamentally different path of his while his goons were chasing you down it firing into your back.

That 'States' Rights' kickoff and the worst civil rights record of any post-war administration. The worst labor record. The worst jobs-creation record to that time, since topped by his successor and his successor's idiot Reagan impersonator son. The beginning of the tax-cutting scams which have enriched the top 1% and eroded the middle class. The worst environmental record. A record of adventurism in Central America which any decent person should view with disgust. The escalation of an already failed War on Drugs to include the use of military personnel in domestic law enforcement functions. Insane spending on big-ticket military toys purely as a domestic politics ruse, long after we realized the Soviets were broke. The introduction of Bombing the Shit Out of Countries With No Air Force As A Means Of Reviving That Ol' Martial Spirit. Iran-Contra, the S&L swindle, reduction of the number of federal food inspectors, assaults on clean air and water standards, the elimination of the Fairness and Equal Time doctrines, the kickoff of America's highly-successful "Industry Mouthpiece to Regulatory Commission Chairman" Retraining Program, and its time-saving "Why Write Laws When Lobbyists Already Have a Template Ready?" reforms. Roger Ailes. James Watt. Robert Fucking Bork. With apologies to Robin Harris, you don't stop typing Reagan atrocities because you run out of them. You stop typing because your arms give out.

Oh, no, wait. That's unfair, I guess, because we have received the standard disclaimer "even though I disagree with some of his policies" from the Senator. Boo-boo all better now!

Wish I could say the same about the pod-people apologias I waded through.

No, there's no excuse for not fully understanding this. No one's going to be slickered by a canny Reagan reformulation. We've just been informed that the Senator from Illinois is either blithely ignorant about the scope of the great struggles in this country in the 60s and 70s, inside and outside the Democratic party, against racism, sexism, economic injustice, and military adventurism, or he's willing to discard them in what even his admirers claim is a Three-Card Monte deal. Those struggles all failed to some extent or another, and they all still go on. Senator Obama has the luxury of imagining he'd be standing where he is today without them. Senator Obama apparently imagines it's time to end this untidy campaigning stuff and start naming airports after him.

Our struggles have fallen short; most human endeavors, and probably all political endeavors, do. But this was not the result of our "excesses". What is excess zeal in the elimination of racial discrimination? They were opposed, Senator. Opposed by white supremacists, by the white power structure, by corporate America and the greedy little piggies at the public teat, by ugly class and race hatreds, by religious fascists. By partisans, Senator, who fought the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, the ERA, environmental protection, who howled when Jimmy Carter tried to make Human Rights a watchword of American foreign policy. Assassins of moral and political leaders and murderers of thirteen-year-old black boys who they heard might've whistled at a white woman.

Partisans, Senator, real partisans, not the kind that tie up a bill in committee because some donor wants it that way. Real partisans. The kind that used millions in public funds to hogtie the Clinton presidency. The kind that paid staffers to go to Florida to disrupt the counting of ballots while pretending to be ordinary citizens. The kind that had no compunction about how they won the 2000 election.

You do recognize partisans when you see them, right? I mean, you've been eagle-eyed about it on the Excessive Left. You do see the others, right? Do you imagine these people are going to magically disappear the moment you take the Oath of Office? Why am I being asked to vote for you, again? Because you're the one man in America who realizes that if things were different they'd be different? And who guarantees that that would mean "better", so long as we don't ask for any troubling details? Because you'd look great on a stamp?

This is not a time for self-styled Progressivism to creep around the back and try to find an open window to climb in. And it's surely not a time to assume that someone kicking in the back door without announcing himself first has our best intentions at heart. Personally, I'd listened to enough sermons for a lifetime by the time I was sixteen. I've seen the results of forty years of appealing to "moderates", aka "disinterested, self-serving dumbasses"; you can, too, if you'll look at the 60s and 70s with open eyes and not with a Newsweek cover story on patchouli use as your guide. It's bad enough listening to a roomful of Obamakinder chanting like monks. It's worse when they're mindlessly intoning "We Can Do Better", despite their having done nothing whatever to prevent two Bush terms and a disastrous waste of human and material resources in Iraq. It's worse still when you direct that toward a droning appreciation of "the brave Pioneers who settled the West". An appreciation of Ronald Reagan is the topper on the Fairy Tale Wedding Cake.

And, right, right, right. Merge right, grandpa. Shut up, bitter old hippie. You know what, Obamatots? It doesn't matter. Maybe this is why some of you we won't name were so wrong about Iraq in the beginning. Actions have consequences, even pirouettes in the clouds. Excusing your man from making any real proposals on the grounds this will put him in the White House so he can get to work enacting your agenda is the surest way to do one thing: keep being taken for granted and milked for votes. Youth isn't wasted on the young. But music composition software is frequently wasted on the tone-deaf.

But then, like I say, I was sitting here trying to be reasonable, and I think I've figured a way to move past our present-day partisanship, at least. Endorse John Edwards, Senator. I will if you will.


scott said...

You're wrong about Olbermann.

You're right about everything else.

This post should be required reading by anybody wanting to outline why Reagan was such a piece of shit.

Prof. George Edward Challenger said...

Oh I so wanna be you if I grow up.

That was exquisite.

Smgumby said...

Most excellent.

Go Edwards!

Candy said...

I've been backing Edwards all along . . .

I used to think that if it came down to a choice between Obama and Clinton, I'd prefer Obama. I'm sort of changing my mind on that.

John deVille said...


You make a compelling case as to why any self-respecting liberal/progressive would do well to avoid making any positive comparisons of oneself to Reagan. And you may well have Obama's number. I lean towards him, have donated money, but remain skeptical. Given the fact that Brother Edwards can't get traction for some reason and the other frontrunner thought it was fine to triangulate with Dick Morris, I didn't see a lot of choices.

In any event, I don't think you're being quite fair to Obama's statement, or at least let's say we have differing interpretations.

It appears to be the case to me, that a de facto requirement both for getting elected to the Presidency and maintaining an effective bully pulpit, one must be a bullshit artist extraordinaire. In the past 28 years, Reagan was the best with Bill Clinton a distant second. Reagan's bullshit not only propelled him into office, it enabled him to commit the atrocities you enumerated.

And I think that's the page Obama is clumsily, ill-advisedly, calling attention to. He could have said he's a better triangulator than Bill Clinton or slicker than Huey Long, but he was last in line at casting call.

aschupanitz said...

Jesus Christ on a crutch, that was cathartic. A thousand times, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I swear, I was really thrown by Obama's reference, and, sad to say, even by O'Donnell's relegating of moi and my ilk to the far left lunatic fringe of misfits who don't love Reagan's sunny optimism.

I mean, I was thrown. And I felt sad and marginalized, and like maybe they're right, and that I really shouldn't feel at home in my country. (I didn't really know O'Donnell's work, and certainly not his "Edwards is a loser" column).

So yes, and thank you for typing till your arms gave out.

Senator Obama said it, so he owns it. It's not necessary for me to willfully misinterpret his intent. As Don DeLillo said, if you understand history, you can ride it. If you don't, well, ouch: you could get thrown, and stay thrown.


D. Sidhe said...

Oh, god yes, exactly. Creepy Reagan whitewashing long after the man's dead baffles the fuck out of me. Zombies don't look any better filmed in misty wistful focus, you know?

I plump for Kucinich, but that's mostly because I'm fucking hopeless, and Edwards has been my second choice. I don't mind a little class warfare as long as the guy's on the right side of it.

The whole "working together" thing is insane, by the definition of doing the same thing we're doing and trying to get a different result. We can't compromise much more, and what we've done already has pulled us all only to the right. There's no moderate anymore. And I'm not sure I even *want* common ground with people who think torture's perfectly acceptable.

Really, what are we trying to accomplish here? Giving in to bullies for the sheer sake of getting along? Fuck that. Sometimes you have to fight them. And if you can do so without shedding anyone's blood and without sacrificing innocents--and in fact saving innocents who get sacrificed by the free market and pointless damned war--then you do so gratefully and with enthusiasm, regardless of how many people will call you "negative".

CJ said...

C'mon...Obama was merely acknowledging that Reagan was politically savvy and embraced by the people enough to push his agenda...that doesn't mean that Obama or any other Democrat actually agrees with the agenda! Get real. Whether we like it or not, Reagan was able to accomplish a lot of (evil) change while he was president and united the public in a way that Clinton did fact, Clinton ignited the movement that put the GOP in congressional powera nd gave us 8 years of GWB.

Just because you state that we need a movement that can create create change the WAY that Reagan did, doesn't mean you want the SAME policies and change that Reagan had!

Get real!

Anonymous said...

cj, I said specifically that I did not need to willfully misinterpret Obama's intent in order to dislike his invocation of Reagan. So give me a goddamn break about the "same policies as Reagan" thing.

What if I told you how much I admired the focus and purposeful tenacity as displayed by, um (...thinking...) J. Edgar Hoover? I mean, really. GWB, Scalia, Rove - they're also remarkably trajectory-changin' dudes, too. You want the sweet fragrance of Change, but not the accompanying stink of middle-class disaster. Oh, forget it. Just read Doghouse's post again, okay?


Anonymous said...

Well, this is beautiful and inciteful writing.