-Montag, in comments at Roy's.
I BELIEVE I've mentioned before the three things which infest American culture to a greater degree now than they did in the days when I felt confident they'd disappear under their own dead weight: putting people in prison for smoking weed, the power of hard-sell advertising to push people's buttons, and Reaganism. The last doesn't mean I thought the Right was going to wise up, or something; just that I figured--let's make that "to a high degree of certainty"--that the Reagan presidency would be all the evidence moderately sane people needed to be done with it, that they'd look back at it sorta shamefacedly, as they would swallowing goldfish, or roller disco, or breaking Indian treaties, and move on quickly. Or at least a sizable percentage would. It's not like I felt it would be replaced by something more than marginally better. I spent most of '82 confidently predicting to anyone who'd listen that Reagan wouldn't even run for reelection; apparently that came within a couple more months of recession of proving true.
But of course in the event it proved about as wrong as could be, as the guy I'd figured got elected just so America could show itself how much it hated Jimmy Carter, and who had already proven--without equivocation, Reader!--that he possessed neither the intellect nor the interest to lead anything grander than a Jaycees parade, that his ideology was a sham, his economic "program" a crock, and his view of American history hopelessly entangled with the oeuvre of Cecil B. DeMille, where it wasn't shaped by D. W. Griffith, was reelected in a landslide over Walter "Where's the Beef" Mondale, the Hubert Humphrey of his generation. The subsequent eight-month improvement in the GDP, on its way to hurtling downward towards the Crash of '87 and the longest recession in post-war history, convinced Americans of the erroneous Republican portrayal of Reagan as a sort of Economics idiot savant, and, somewhat more accurately, convinced them that he worked just as well asleep as awake, so no one disturbed him for the Iran-Contra scandal or the S&L implosion.
I'm a lot sadder but no wiser these days; I haven't the foggiest idea of how the Daniels campaign pulled off the same bullshit twenty years later, and without even the tiniest uptick in any economy Mitch has had his mitts on to blow out of proportion. Just turning Daniels' record into something tentatively approaching competence requires, first, that you simply disregard his three years directing Bush's OMB and, second, that you agree to accept the accounting trick which "solved" Indiana's "deficit" while simultaneously pretending that a $2 billion debt to the Feds doesn't exist, and that a 17% increase in sales taxes is not a tax increase.
And all that gets you to the place where you can say, "Hooray, Mitch 'The Blade' Daniels! He sorta temporarily plugged a budget shortfall in Indiana so long as he had Republican legislatures which simply slashed spending by whatever percentage was needed, regardless of consequence! Just the solution we need in Washington!" This is an electoral strategy which apparently requires that anyone old enough to remember the Gramm-Rudman Act is now so old they're automatic Republicans.
Like I say, I'm no wiser, but I've got no idea how this plays out in Republican presidential politics, where Daniels is so impure of thought he had to swear to Laura Ingharam that he was the most anti-abortion governor in the state's history. I'm not sure how you position yourself as The Rational Alternative in an asylum for the criminally insane anyway, and then he's got to do so with a record that doesn't withstand scrutiny.
There's a lot of bushwa these days about Reagan's pragmatism (and little note of the Fibonacci increase in Republican lunacy). But Reagan ran as, and was, a full-fledged nutjob for his day; that his actual governance might've fallen short of banning fluoridation and legislating ketchup as a basic food group always seemed to me to have more to do with a residual level of sense the country still couldn't manage to shake. Now it has. Now Mitch has been forced to flay any remaining flesh from Indiana's public schools in the hopes of reviving some Republican PATCO nostalgia. Forced to actually speak to, I mean at, a group of teachers at the Statehouse last week he informed them that they made too much money! "Twenty-two percent more than the Hoosier taxpayers who pay your salary!" said the man who cashed in ten years as a Senatorial aide to the tune of 50 million dollars. Of course the average public school teacher in Indiana in 2009 actually made less than the Indiana median household income, but that sort of thing never bothered Reagan, did it?