I broke with Candidate Obama--that is, I went from potential, if reluctant, supporter back to default and grumbling Democrat--three years ago next week, when he and John Edwards helped Tim "Roasted Potato" Russert gang-tackle Hillary Clinton on the grounds that Eliot Spitzer had done something sensible in between his weekly forced-feminization sessions, and she should answer for it. I was no Hillary supporter--sorry, meant to suggest you sit down first--but was, and am, convinced that this sort of shit is precisely what's wrong with our campaigns, and hence our governance, and that a half-way sensible and decent man foregoes temporal personal gain which comes at the expense of poisoning the public drinking water. Of course, later, Nominee Obama would express his admiration for Ronald Reagan *. I lost it. No, really, before that I was soft-spoken and reasonable. Look it up.
Because, y'know, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, Barack Obama was a twenty-year-old college student majoring in political science. When I was a twenty-year-old college student majoring in folk pharmaceuticals, I sure as hell knew what a Dick Nixon was.
I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.
And don't get me wrong: there is absolutely no excuse for the President to've missed what Reagan was about. I happen to think the same is true for every sentient being in this country alive at the time, and certainly for anyone who lived through it as a functioning adult and a Democrat. And the above, by the way, is from his next-day expiation.
I suppose that, under the circumstances, I can be forgiven for blacking out before the remark about Nixon, but the simple fact is that he missed that one, too, and Big Time: Nixon is the man who altered our politics forever, with a single speech, with, in fact, two words: Silent Majority. But Nixon was a petty thug, a war criminal, an impacted bolus of hate in America's transverse colon. Whereas Reagan was an affable dunce whose PR people had finally caught up with the Teevee Age. Nixon had B-52s and unlimited ordnance to drop on Commies, in a war which, however else it gets rewritten in the pop imagination, it is still not quite acceptable to insist was the Right Thing To Do; Reagan only had dumdum bullets and a few fleeing hippies to shoot in the back. Y'know, the sort of thing you forgive if the guy seems like someone you'd wanna have a beer with. So the Right has been able to pretend, for three fucking decades, that it just wants to return us to the simpler, gentler time of Good Ol' Gramps and his common-sense, horse-and-plow wisdom, not lock us back in the closet and give the key, and the cattle prod, to Uncle Ernie and his creepy five o'clock shadow and Beefeater breath.
There was no reason to swallow it then, and there's no reason to swallow it now. The Teabaggers are the grandchildren of the paranoid fascists of the post-war era, whose pinnacle was Richard Nixon. They are not the inheritors of the prop mantle worn by that sainted spokesmodel and Great Communicator. It's well past time for seeing Reagan for what he was; too bad that didn't happen when it might've meant avoiding the dissolution of the middle class, and re-peonage of the poor, and five-fold increase in the prison population. And it's time to start calling The Nixon Revival what it is. Unadulterated, but by no means pure.
* which, of course, he was then forced to admit he meant in a gay way, not politically.