Obama's Admiration of Ronald Reagan

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Jan 16, 2008 at 15:41

This is from the Reno Gazette editorial board on Monday.

The video clip above is Barack Obama explaining his admiration of Ronald Reagan.  I've transcribed it here.

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure.  I think part of what's different are the times.  I do think that for example the 1980 was different.  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.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

There are many reason progressives should admire Ronald Reagan, politically speaking.  He realigned the country around his vision, he brought into power a new movement that created conservative change, and he was an extremely skilled politician.  But that is not why Obama admires Reagan.  Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable.

Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement.  The libertarian anti-government ideology of an unaccountable large liberal government was designed by ideological conservatives to take advantage of the backlash against these 'excesses'.

It is extremely disturbing to hear, not that Obama admires Reagan, but why he does so.  Reagan was not a sunny optimist pushing dynamic entrepreneurship, but a savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power.  Lots of people don't agree with this, of course, since it doesn't fit a coherent narrative of GOP ascendancy.  Masking Reagan's true political underpinning principles is a central goal of the conservative movement, with someone as powerful as Grover Norquist seeking to put Reagan's name on as many monuments as possible and the Republican candidates themselves using Reagan's name instead of George Bush's in GOP debates as a mark of greatness.  Why would the conservative movement create such idolatry around Reagan?  Is is because they just want to honor a great man?  Perhaps that is some of it.  Or are they trying to escape the legacy of the conservative movement so that it can be rebuilt in a few years, as they did after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I?

I don't know.  But if you think, as Obama does, that Reagan's rise to power was premised on a sunny optimism in contrast to an out of control government and a society rife with liberal excess, then you don't understand the conservative movement.  Reagan tapped into greed and fear and tribalism, and those are powerful forces.  Ignoring that isn't going to make them go away.

Matt Stoller :: Obama's Admiration of Ronald Reagan

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Obama has a section in "The Audacity of Hope" (4.00 / 11)
about the gross disparity between Reagan's rhetoric and his utter blindness towards social inequality and poverty.  Obama spent the 80's organizing on the streets of Chicago --- watching the Reagan years unfold through the prism of public housing projects on the south side of Chicago. 

He was keenly aware of Reagan's disastrous domestic policies.  He experienced them first hand, but he insists on seeing something positive in the impulse through Reagan and Clinton towards a leaner, more responsive, more accountable government.

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I remember Reagan (4.00 / 16)
never missing an opportunity to bash liberals and Democrats.

I don't see Obama making any kind of case against conservatism. He just makes a case against partisanship, as if both sides were equally to blame.

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[ Parent ]
a valid concern (4.00 / 3)
I woudl honestly like to see Obama sharpen his rhetoric to make this clearer-- I think that what's undergirding his campaign is the implicit idea that people are so damn fed up with Bush and our current governance that they get this. And obviously that does come through to me, and it comes through to most people I know supporting or leaning toward Obama (including, by the way, my ex-Republican cousin from Iowa who became a Democrat and caucused for him). But I see your point re: Reagan, and I do think Obama stepping it up to another level could do wonders for him.

[ Parent ]
Obama is Reaching Out To (4.00 / 4)
The Reagan Democrats in that portion of his speech. Unfortunately I have not heard him reach out to Progressives in the same way.

If he gets in he will be a capitulator of the worse kind.

[ Parent ]
Obama is reaching out.... (4.00 / 5)
I am in favor of civil liberties.
I am against the corporate domination of our lives.
I want the war in Iraq to end NOW.

Obama sure isn't reaching out to me.

[ Parent ]
This is just a clip (4.00 / 2)
Obama is explaining why he thinks that Reagan changed the course of American poliitcs.  he doesn't say he "admires" Reagan.  Rather, he acknowledges Reagan's rather uncanny skill at tapping into the desires of millions of people, most of whom did not happen to be liberals and, in fact, were fed up with Liberalism. 

Obama is not the first, by any means, to have observed and commented on this skill of Reagan's.  Had you been alive and aware during the Reagan years, Matt, perhaps you would have noticed it too.

Reagan was a disaster in many ways, particularly for the lower middle class and poor, minorities etc.  However, he was immensely popular, something many Liberals simply cannot accept, nor can they accept that many people were turned off by the excesses of the counter culture (which was way more fun for those of us who were in it) and by what they perceived as Liberals' pampering the undeserving. Trying to understand why that was irrespective of how he feels about Reagan's policies shows that Obama has a sense of what it takes to bring people onto your side so that you can make a transformation in another direction

Jimmy Carter had many good policies, but couldn't mobilize people behind them, and in many ways he failed as a President, notwithstanding the Egypt-Israeli peace pact. He bummed people out.  Reagan did have the qualities Obama cites.  But that doesn't mean that Obama approves of his policies or his ideology.  He just sees him as a skilled communicator that one can learn from.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Clinton was more popular than Reagan (0.00 / 0)
Clinton was more popular than Reagan ever was. Reagan's immense popularity is a media myth. Clinton beat Reagan's highest approval rating, had a higher approval when he left office, and had a higher approval rating on average.

Unlike Clinton Reagan accomplished very little while in office. He cut taxes, wasted massive amounts of money on the military, and used his executive powers to do a lot of damage, but Democratic congresses stymied the permanent conservative changes he ran on.

[ Parent ]
Not entirely (4.00 / 4)
Reagan was checked by a Senate that was much more stiff-spined than what we have now, so he did not achieve much of what he wanted.  On the other hand, during his presidency liberalism and many of its legacy institutions came under severe attack and conservatism became ascendant.

Clinton's popularity was at least partly a revulsion against the excesses of the GOP in the tawdry impeachment fiasco.  Clinton left no lasting legacy because his popularity was personal and he didn't revive liberalism as a philosophy and he didn't build up the Dem Party.  That's why it all disappeared so fast under the Bsuh/Cheney regime. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
perhaps (0.00 / 0)
But Bill Clinton was more immensely popular than Reagan.

I argue that Bill Clinton made deeper and more lasting changes than Reagan, and that he defined the Democratic party represented by Obama and Hillary. Bush's abuses after 9/11 set things back a ways, but we have two great candidates who are running on the Clinton legacy and can move us forward again. Even Edwards' proposals are heavily influenced by Clinton ideas. That is why there is so much unity in the party generally, and why there is so little policy difference among the candidates.

[ Parent ]
reality-based (4.00 / 15)
he insists on seeing something positive in the impulse through Reagan and Clinton towards a leaner, more responsive, more accountable government.

He insists on seeing something that isn't there.  Reagan's rise didn't showcase an impulse for a leaner, more responsive, and more accountable government, it was a backlash against women, blacks, and labor leaders combined with dramatic institutional failures on the liberal side.

Obama spent two years in the 1980s organizing.  Tom Hayden actually spent the 1980s organizing, and Obama bashed him for it.

[ Parent ]
still not clear (4.00 / 3)
I don't disagree with your assessment of Resgan in the least, but I really am having trouble seeing the daylight from what Obama actually wrote (in his book) and said. My honest read was that he very much got (and saw) that Reagan was riding not a "leaner government" wave," but an anti-government wave and backlash-- one that, yes, in part was made possible by the stagnation of progressivism and tapping into popular sense that government wasn't working/society was in a "malaise." Reagan skillfully tapped into the entire breadth of that frustration, both in terms of the genuine void and moreover the complete and utter deprivation/backlash undergirding it.

And Republicans largely followed that model ever since-- absolutely predicated on a racist backlash politics, but also taking advantage of the lack of a unified progressive counter-argument and a sense that Democratic governance for decades had failed. I don't think that recognizing that is equivalent to saying that Reagan showed an impulse for leaner, more representative government. It just showed that Dems weren't getting across a vision for that, allowing Reagan to continue the backlash and present anti-government ideas previously considered heretical as the solution.

I'm sorry, but I honestly look over Obama's writings and words here, and I don't see the kind of fundamental agreement-between-the-lines with Reagan that others are reading into. He set out to simply note that he wants, like Reagan did, to tap into existing frustrations and continue to realign our politics. Such an undertaking has its pitfalls, but if successful it could be huge.

[ Parent ]
1983-1988 (when he entered Harvard Law) (0.00 / 0)

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[ Parent ]
Not entirely, at least from my parents' perspective (4.00 / 2)
I know this isn't representative, but my parents both voted for Reagan.  The reasons they've often given were high unemployment, general American malaise, frustration with the failures of the 1970's and a government that honestly was adrift.  My dad was a McGovernite who was jaded by the 1970's and voted for Reagan for pretty much the reason Obama lined out.  I think it's too easy to depict Reagan's victory as a backlash against women, blacks and labor leaders.  The country was mired in the sludge and prospects looked dim.  That's why my parents voted Reagan.

Maybe Reagan was able to win conservative Southerners with the formula lined up above, but he also won states like Illinois, and I don't think it was because of race, gender or labor issues.  The state of the country back then seemed stuck and declining, and Reagan got votes because he was challenging that government that didn't seem to know what it was doing.

[ Parent ]
Matt - USSR, fear (4.00 / 2)

The issue -- and contradiction -- here is not really about domestic politics or race.

It's that Obama is embracing this myth that Reagan was just a sunny optimist focused on uniting the country.

One must remember that fear about the Soviet Union drove politics back then.

Remember the bear ad?


Reagan challenged people: "are YOU better off today than YOU were four years ago?"

Politics of me, not politics of we.

Politics of fear, not politics of hope.

Politics of complete and utter bullshit.

[ Parent ]
What did Obama say about Hayden? (0.00 / 0)
Matt...could you be more specific about what Obama said about Hayden, or point us to a source for that?

[ Parent ]
Reagan was more complex (0.00 / 0)
I watched Reagan from the time he first railed against the students of UC Berkeley in 1964-65 and then ran for Governor promising to "clean up the mess in Berkeley."  I watched his policies and tactics up close and then when he got elected President.  He was an optimist and he ran a phenomenal campaign ("Morning in America") in 1984.  He was like Bush in his ability to see only what he wanted in reality.  But he wasn't mean like Bush.  He was conservative, and understood people who wanted a return to conservative values, even as he was divorced and estranged from his children, didn't go to church, signed California's law legalizing abortion and campaigned against a measure to bar gays from teaching.  He really was a "great communicator" who was consistently underestimated by liberals. 

He also had retrograde economic and budgetary policies that nearly bankrupted the country and set the cause of labor and civil rights back at least a decade, and he was in some ways really divorced from reality.  But he was very popular with a large segment of America, and figuring out why that was is very instructive for someone who aspires to lead the country. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
More Kool-Aid? Lemon? Or Grape??? (4.00 / 3)
So, if Obama's so keenly aware of what was wrong with Reagan, how come he's utterly mum about it now???

Now with pretzels!


  I would love to tour the Southland
  In a travelling minstrel show
  Yes I'd love to tour the Southland
  In a traveling minstrel show
  Yes I'm dying to be a star and make them laugh
  Sound just like a record on the phonograph
  Those days are gone forever
  Over a long time ago, oh yeah

  I have never met Napoleon
  But I plan to find the time
  I have never met Napoleon
  But I plan to find the time
  'Cause he looks so fine upon that hill
  They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
  Those days are gone forever
  Over a long time ago, oh yeah

  I stepped up on the platform
  The man gave me the news
  He said, You must be joking son
  Where did you get those shoes?
  Where did you get those shoes?

  Well, I've seen 'em on the TV, the movie show
  They say the times are changing but I just don't know
  These things are gone forever
  Over a long time ago, oh yeah

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Let's cut the crap right.... (0.00 / 0)

..........fukin' now. This Liebercrat is, despite all his schooling, and utter idiot. Bonehead, assclown, usless asshole...I could go on but I won't....

I'll just point out Senator Moran and his followers that St. Ronnie presided over the largest peacetime expansion of the U.S. government ever.

Don't agree....choke on this and remember JFK/LBJ were 'wartime presdents...' Vietnam don't ya know.

Senator Moran has no clue about U.S. political history. Every time he trys to 'explain' himself he just comes off as being more ignorant than you thought possible.

At this point I'm all for him flappin' his yap and letting the citizens get to know him.


Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
Wow lots of rage there. (0.00 / 0)

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join MoveOn.org and fight for progressive change.  

[ Parent ]
Have you read Paul Street's critiques of Obama? (4.00 / 6)

It should give you pause, at least.  I was disturbed by Obama's continual bashing of liberals and hard fought rights for women and minorities in the 1960's.  I don't consider those "excesses".  The war on poverty cut poverty in half in 4 years by those excesses. Single women finally got the right to use birth control.  It wasn't just some "psychodrama" as Obama calls it.  People died.
  The excesses were the expenditures of the military industrial congressional complex.  Not pulling people out of poverty. 

Obama spent 4 years, I believe, as a community organizer working on getting tenants together to fight for asbestos removal  and getting job banks started.  Fine.  But to admire the radical economic fundamentalism of Reagan that destroyed the union movement and declared war on the middle class with the doubling of the payroll tax is to be simply be a conservative.  So he's running in the wrong party. 
And don't even get me started on Reagan and doing squat about AIDS.  I lost most of my friends to AIDS.  We lost a whole generation of theatre and film artists. 
I played Nancy Reagan in 1984 in NYC with Wayne Knight as Ed Meese.  We poured our hearts into that political revue because we saw Reagan as the embodiment of some very evil thing or golem.

[ Parent ]
Umm... (4.00 / 2)
But to admire the radical economic fundamentalism of Reagan that destroyed the union movement and declared war on the middle class with the doubling of the payroll tax is to be simply be a conservative.  So he's running in the wrong party.

No offence, but you are making this up. This is not what Obama said.

If I said that Mao came to power at a time when China was undergoing massive transformation and he was able to bring unity and stability to an country that had been plagued with division and infighting - would you accuse me of supporting the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution? If you did, it would be just as fallacious as what you accuse Obama of believing.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
stability and unity? (0.00 / 0)
I would say that you have a monstrous definition of unity and stability and that getting the trains to run on time is not my highest priority.

[ Parent ]
Maybe my point wasn't clear (0.00 / 0)
If I say Hitler was a charismatic speaker who unified the German people, am I endorsing the holocaust? You can argue that Hitler wasn't that charismatic, or that the German people were not really unified under Hitler. Just as you can claim that Obama's characterization of Reagan and the end of the 1970's is false. We are free to debate history.

But to claim Obama's characterization of Reagan is an endorsement of Reagan's economic policies is just as silly as arguing that my characterization of Hitler means I support the holocaust.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
If you speak for two minutes on the topic (0.00 / 0)
and don't insert caveats about how what Hitler accomplished was horrible, all the while going on about the difficulties suffered in Weimar Germany, then one might take it as an implicit endorsement of Hitler.

Not to mention that the analogy doesn't completely carry, because conventional wisdom in the US endorses Reagan and condemns Hitler severely.

[ Parent ]
My metaphors are flawed (0.00 / 0)
And I'm trying way too hard to make a simple point.

FeralCat claims that Obama is running in the wrong party, and she implies this is because Obama admires "the radical economic fundamentalism of Reagan". This is not true - and it really doesn't even merit explaining why it isn't true. It is one of those things that is so obviously false that you start to feel stupid for even acknowledging it.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
I don't like where you are going (4.00 / 1)
Hitler was a monster for the totality of his approach to government. The holocaust is one, though the most evil, expression of that approach. That totalitarianism unified Germans does not in any way recommend it.

Obama is saying that Reagan was the right figure at the right time, and that Obama is the right figure for this time. Reagan was the wrong figure and he did deep and lasting damage to this country, I would have a hard time supporting a candidate who wants to emulate Reagan's approach.

[ Parent ]
Where does he say he admires Reagan at all, (0.00 / 0)
much less his economic conservatism?  He simply acknowledges Reagan's great skill in tapping into and giving voice to the frustrations and aspirations of a great many people, and understands that by doing so, Reagan got people to buy into many of the fundamantal changes he wanted to make.  No where does Obama say he approves of Reagan's policies, only his skill at communicating and getting people behind him. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Sick is all I can say (0.00 / 0)
"...insists on seeing something positive in the impulse through Reagan and Clinton towards a leaner, more responsive, more accountable government."

Accountable my asshole. Perhaps to plutocrats, but forget accountable to the majority of the people, especially those of the people who are black, brown and/or female.

Can it happen here?

[ Parent ]
I've been trying to tell people (4.00 / 11)
that Obama is way too much like Reagan for my comfort level. His supporters do not see this at all. I wouldn't even mind if I felt Obama really had the potential to realign American politics.

But unlike Reagan, Obama is just trying to build an electoral coalition based on hope and optimism, without also using every opportunity to educate people about why conservatives and Republicans are the problem.

In Obama's world, partisanship is the problem. He is way off base.

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I am tired of this argument (3.20 / 10)
You are basically saying that a Barack Obama, despite a lifetime largely devoted to progressive causes, has now decided that the middle ground between conservatism and liberalism is the correct course for the country. I do not think this is true. I DO think that he does not dispel this myth effectively with his rhetoric. I think he chooses to let people read into it what they may - allowing a conservative to look at his language and agree with his underlying philosophy, as they read it.

You say yourself that "conservatives and Republicans are the problem". I disagree. I think a small, vocal, politically active subset of conservatives and Republicans are the problem. These are the folks who have a disproportionate representation in think tanks, Congress and the national stage. They are the enemy. But by declaring in no uncertain terms that they are the enemy, Obama would risk alienating those voters that, although they may not agree with the entire breadth of far-right ideology, do associate themselves more closely with Republicans than Democrats. Or with conservatism instead of liberalism. 

The people that Obama is trying to reach out to are the rest of the Republican-voting public. Those who vote against their economic interest. Those who vote in favor of aristocratic economic policy and aggressive foreign policy. Those who vote based on fear (as opposed to hope).

I don't mean to sound like an Obama cheerleader, but I think it is worthwhile to dig a little deeper into WHY Obama says the things he does, WHY he chooses the tone he does, and what he hopes to accomplish by doing this.
To simply proclaim that he is a triangulating centrist seems disingenuous at best.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
This argument just makes it worse to say what he said (4.00 / 4)

You are basically saying that a Barack Obama, despite a lifetime largely devoted to progressive causes, has now decided that the middle ground between conservatism and liberalism is the correct course for the country. I do not think this is true. I DO think that he does not dispel this myth effectively with his rhetoric.

His rhetoric or his actions in Congress.  Is he going to help Dodd on FISA?  Is he going to vote on anything controversial?  He could be doing concrete things in congress to oppose the war, but his actual actions in Congress are pretty indistinguishable from, or worse than, Clinton's.

You say yourself that "conservatives and Republicans are the problem". I disagree. I think a small, vocal, politically active subset of conservatives and Republicans are the problem. These are the folks who have a disproportionate representation in think tanks, Congress and the national stage. They are the enemy. But by declaring in no uncertain terms that they are the enemy, Obama would risk alienating those voters that, although they may not agree with the entire breadth of far-right ideology, do associate themselves more closely with Republicans than Democrats. Or with conservatism instead of liberalism.

Then, shouldn't he be exposing the duplicity and visciousness of the republican leadership, all the way back to reagan, carefully explaining how the Republican/conservative leadership has led their movement away from the preferences of its base?  Why the hell would he go around complimenting the grandfather of all of the horrible junk that the conservative movement has been foisting upon the country for the past thirty years?  This line of reasoning makes it worse to compliment Reagan in this manner.  And it's not like he governed with hope, either.  He was constantly scaring us of communists everywhere--watch out!  The Sandonistas are going to get us!

If we're going to move forward, Reagan cannot be a symbol of the political center. 

[ Parent ]
... (4.00 / 1)
If we're going to move forward, Reagan cannot be a symbol of the political center. 

This is simply not what Obama is saying. How could it possibly be interpreted that way? Besides, it is not the argument I was rebutting. I was responding to desmoinesdem's claim that Obama is a centrist.

Then, shouldn't he be exposing the duplicity and viciousness of the republican leadership, all the way back to Reagan, carefully explaining how the Republican/conservative leadership has led their movement away from the preferences of its base?

Yes, and he should be dissecting and explaining how American imperialism has caused countless people to despise our nation's meddling in foreign affairs. But what good will that do? All it will do is give the right-wing ammunition and ensure Obama loses the race. I know we all want Obama to say what WE want him to say, but is it so hard to understand that to win a national election, he must say what voters are ready to hear?

Besides, as I said...

...by declaring in no uncertain terms that they are the enemy, Obama would risk alienating those voters that, although they may not agree with the entire breadth of far-right ideology, do associate themselves more closely with Republicans than Democrats. Or with conservatism instead of liberalism.

People like Reagan - right or wrong, they really do! They make like him for the wrong reasons - possibly for false reasons they have imagined, but they like him nonetheless. If Obama came out and said "Ronald Reagan is the Devil" he would be right, but he would alienate a lot of voters that we want on our side. Yeah, maybe they have a false impression of the Reagan administration, but they might have the right viewpoint on healthcare, the environment and a lot of other issues that are important to us. So let them be wrong, but also let them be out allies, if possible.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
If people like Ron, (4.00 / 2)
then why is he talking about him?  Why can't Obama just talk on the issues, be clear on the issues, cast himself in the mold of someone who isn't absolutely toxic to 90% of the Democratic base (Kennedy would do nicely, why not talk about Kennedy as a contrast to Clinton?  FDR would work, too), and then move the country somewhere progressive. 

What he doesn't need to do is reinforce the false impression that Reagan declared it to be morning in America, and then it was.

[ Parent ]
Let's be realistic (0.00 / 0)
How often has he talked about Reagan? A couple times?

Don't get me wrong - I do agree with you. But I don't see the need to blow things out of proportion.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
How often has he talked about Reagan? (0.00 / 0)
Too many.

[ Parent ]
We've spent days exploring (4.00 / 1)
why John Edwards and populism generally don't do better.  Obama is looking at Reagan as an example of how a politician can embody the Zeitgeist (or at least convince a majority he does) and get people behind the transfformative policies he wants to enact.  He is not espousiung Reaganomics or foreign policy--it takes wilfull blindness or animosity to think that is what he is doing. 

Perhaps there is something to be learned there?  Maybe railing against the unfairness of life and how awful the moneyed interests really isn't a winning formula in America?  Or do people just want to lose elections forever?

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
You can make almost the exact same point with FDR (0.00 / 0)
The despair of Hooverism being replaced with having nothing to fear but fear itself.  And there, you don't have to add onto the legend of St. Ron.  If a Democrat, in a Democratic primary is going to cite Reagan, there should be some caveats about just how horrible his presidency was for the country. 

And it's hardly fair to argue that Obama beat Edwards on message, considering the amount of free positive press and vastly superior funding Obama got.

[ Parent ]
Progressive leadership (4.00 / 1)
When has he, as a legislator, led an opposition against the right when the chips were down?  Considering his district's anti-war stance, I don't include his 2002 speech, especially since he hasn't backed it up in the Senate.  To me that's the most crucial test of his effectiveness as a potential president: How he'll deal with the inevitable right-wing clash.  Community organizer is one thing, holding your own against the right is another.  When push comes to shove, he consistently defers to the establishment.

How is he not a centrist?  His policies, rhetoric, corporate ties (most notably reflected by his vote for CAFA, a bill even Clinton opposed) all present him as a corporate-bought centrist.  There's no way financial firms would waste a dime on him if they suspected he'd dare challenge their hold.

You want to know why he says what he does in that tone?  To appeal to the right and appease corporate interests.  There just isn't any evidence to show it's part of some progressive plan.  Instead, while his tone towards the right is conciliatory, his tone towards the left is largely dismissive.  Hell, the man thinks the battles in Washington, where the stakes have been extremely high these past several years, were nothing more than a "food fight."

I see him in the mold of Harry Reid.

[ Parent ]
... (4.00 / 1)
You want to know why he says what he does in that tone?  To appeal to the right and appease corporate interests.

Or, to put it another way - 'to win elections'. I think I finally understand why so many people dislike Obama. They would rather him raise hell and loss than do what it takes to win. Let him raise hell after he wins. Don't think he will raise hell? Yeah, well, who the fuck does raise hell as president? No one - no president does. Worst case scenario - we get just another democratic president. Best case scenario, he is effective and does pursue radical progressive change.

There just isn't any evidence to show it's part of some progressive plan.

Well, there is if you look at his life prior to the few years he has wasted in the Senate. Yes, his Senatorial record is dismal. But guess what, I bet it helps him win a presidential election.

We all know Obama isn't in the Senate to be a great Senator. That takes decades of commitment for little payoff. Obama came to the Senate to run for president. I few all of his actions in the senate through that lens.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
Yes! (0.00 / 0)
'We' should have just stood aside and let Lieberman win. He was gonna anyway. Right?

It's all about identity politics and 'winning'.

For what?

So like Joe and The Hill and Obama and Reid and McConnell and Sessions and Lott and all the rest the 'Winner' can line his/her pockets with corporate cash in exchange for allowing the war to go on, the air to become poisonous, your kid's toys to become toxic, the water supply to be destroyed then privatized and sold back to us at 10 times the current price?

Because whether you 'get it' or not that's what Obama and Clinton are running for.

That big Gold Ring.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
What do we win exactly? (0.00 / 0)
Of course he's doing it to win.  Did I ever say he didn't?  I love how you think that somehow if Obama wins, progressives do.  If you're just into "Democrats" then, you should've voted for Lieberman when he was a Dem, right?  What the hell are we voting for if not issues?  Why vote for someone who'll further capitulate to the right when you can vote otherwise?

And you're wrong: there is no evidence of a progressive plan--at all.  Again, how the hell does being a community organizer prove otherwise?  There is no reason to trust he won't appease the right at every turn; none.  You can't be trusted until you defend progressive principles when push comes to shove as a politician.  He has not done that.

And lastly: What has he done to prepare himself to be a good president exactly?  When has he shown leadership?

[ Parent ]
And laslty.. (0.00 / 0)
He is a constitutional scholar and a immensely successful politician. Do most presidential candidates do more than this?

Would you rather have a president that has spent the last 15 years getting to know every lobbyist, reporter and corporate shill in Washington? Or would do you want a president that has spent much of their lives working to defend civil rights, voting rights and studying the constitution? 

I love how you think that somehow if Obama wins, progressives do.

I didn't say that. My opinion is that people spend a large part of their lives doing everything just right to have a shot at the presidency. What they do there, a lot of the time, is really a mystery until they do it. We don't know what promises they keep until they keep them. We don't know if they will fight for our values until they are in the White House fighting for them. Everything before that is political theater to try and convince 51% of the nation that they deserve the chance. And that means convincing many types of people from many backgrounds with diverse values. He is not running to be the progressive netroots candidate. He is running to win - and doing all of the less than savory things necessary to make it happen.

It is a matter of reading between the lines. I have read between the lines and I am not convinced he is what I want in a president. But I'm not convinced otherwise, either. Clearly, many people here are. I don't share the same outlook.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
It's worth noting that (4.00 / 6)
If Obama gets elected behind a strong mandate for bipartisan-progressive reform, and Republicans defect from that and serve to obstruct the passage of that legislation, they become the problem by default.

Instead of using demagoguery to demonize the GOP, you would have the electorate come to the appropriate conclusion by itself. 

Which is the point.  If they don't defect, then you get your legislation passed.  If they do defect, then they're the sore losers who are obstructing the will of the people and need to be ushered out of Congress.

It's an incredibly strong position, and one that can't be achieved IMO by pursuing a strongly-partisan electoral strategy that will drive moderate, right-leaning voters back to the GOP.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I'm sure that will work as well (0.00 / 0)
as all the pressure Republicans felt after the 2006 midterms to get out of the way of the new Democratic majority as they pushed to get us out of Iraq.  Ooops, guess that's not a good example!

Well, how about how effective it's been to have Harry Reid pointing out that those naughty Republicans are being obstructionist by using the threat of filibuster to get their own way?  Guess all those times the Dems forbore to use the fillibuster really paid off for them in the coin of Republican cooperation.  AFter all, the fear of being seen called mean names like obstructionist really has those guys quaking in their boots! 

Yep, sounds like a really smart plan . . .

. . . if you're a Democrat who's been in a coma the past seven years.

John McCain doesn't think kids need health insurance

[ Parent ]
Remeber the president?? (0.00 / 0)
A guy named Bush? Who has and will veto anything that doesn't rub him the right way? Without the ability to override, or even get most bills a floor vote, why does everyone expect Democratic senators to risk their neck on legislation that will only get vetoed?

Things will be different with a Democratic president. Things will be worth fighting for again. I almost want to say 'duh'.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
That is exactly what he's doing (0.00 / 0)
He's building a coalition for the general, and he's building one that will make the GOP obstructionists irrelevant, just like Reagan was able to marginalize liberals.  He isn't the second coming, but he's got an idea for winning and governiong that might be the most successful Dem achievement since JFK/LBJ.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
His 2004 DNC speech really laid out his political philosophy. (4.00 / 4)
He essentially slams Republican governance as un-American, by arguing that the American tradition is one of we are all in this together, of my brother's keeper, etc. --- that kind of unity, that sense of community is what Obama sees as the foundation of progressive policy.  Remember his examples from that speech?  The arrest of an Arab-American without trial being an affront to all our civil liberties, etc.  That's the kind of unity he's talking about.

His 2006 and 2007 speeches at the Take Back America conferences do this well also.

One Million Strong --- Join up!

[ Parent ]
This is what a lot of bloggy criticism misses about Obama. (4.00 / 4)
Unity is the friend of progressivism. Progressive reforms only get achieved by groups of people working together in solidarity. They are NOT achieved by crafting a Rovian 51% coalition - that is the way to govern for conservatives, for whom gridlock is an ally.

Obama gets this.

I think. At least I'm pretty sure he does.

Yes: he gets this.

[ Parent ]
The criticism also ignores the difference (0.00 / 0)
between the Dems' weaknesses now with Bush as President vs where they will be with a Dem President and conservatism back on its heels.  I can't believe how much people keep refighting the last battles instead of looking ahead to the next battles on very different terrain.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
One America (4.00 / 3)
is not a political philosophy. It's pablum.

[ Parent ]
This seems like a pretty blatent misread... (4.00 / 9)
But that is not why Obama admires Reagan.  Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable.

Obama says
I think they felt like with all the excesses

He's not saying that's what he believes, but what the Reagan boosters believed.

Frankly, when I watched this I thought that Obama was pretty spot on in noting that Reagan's presidency was a movement in the ways that Clinton's and Nixon's weren't.  That doesn't mean he would support Reagans policies!

Why do you try to read the tea leaves from this you tube clip and come to a conclusion that stands in contrast to Obama's stated positions.

Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement.

Sorry, I'm not convinced that Obama is against the civil rights movement, or the other landmark progressive movements.

Full disclosure: I would vote for Obama if I voted today.  That aside, as objectively as I can say it, this post is a giant turd on an otherwise wonderful blog.

oh (4.00 / 10)
I'm not saying that Obama was against the civil rights movement at all.  He's obviously a strong proponent of civil rights.  I just don't think he understands the nature of the right-wing.

[ Parent ]
That's a fair criticism (4.00 / 2)
But I think that to really understand him you have to appreciate the larger situation.  I think that there's a lot of truth to when people say that Obama's race prevents him from playing the partisan, angry, black liberal in the mold of Al Sharpton less he be dismissed as just another black politician not ready for primetime.

Everything I've read about Obama pegs him as a savy consumer and participant in the political and media world, and I don't think that the "true nature" of the right wing escapes him.  I think he just knows how best to counter that, and that is to take away its credibility.  If he had a 60% ruling majority, with his media cred he'd be unstoppable.  And I'm sure the 30% dead enders would be much worse off than they would with Clinton 52% ruling majority.

[ Parent ]
agreed to an extent (4.00 / 2)
I'm an Obama supporter as well and I agree with you on the change model here being what Obama is actually advocating for, and obviously on the sense of how he perceives the right wing. And that's definitely helped along by the fact that we see the right wing's usual politics on Iraq, immigration et al falling flat of late for the most part-- Obama could very well be tapping into a shift there, as he supposes.

Nonetheless, I do admit (and this is where I think Matt and others are right to fret a bit) some unease as to what happens if we have a closer election than that or a backlash/sabotage once he takes office, which is something I think Obama skeptics are preparing for. Obama's model still could work then as the response to get around it and pass things, and its a lot better than the way the GOP governed regardless, but it WILL need to take on a sharper edge. I think Obama does a good job of defining himself in contrast to the status quo with that status quo being understood as right-wing governance, but I do think he could always stand-- both in winning the primary and in the general election-- to sharpen the distinction and make it clear what he's going after.

He did that a good deal last night with his Bush contrasts, so I have hope, but its still a valid concern.

[ Parent ]
well said (4.00 / 2)
Matt, I am saddened by this article.  I think this is the poorest thing you've ever written. 

I've been disturbed by the "no one is good enough for us" type articles here for a while and this one puts it over the top.  It is too bad that the right wing can count on "us" to dig our own grave.

It is one thing to be critical of ourselves, and quite another to attack and misinterpret one of our remaining candidate's remarks in a way that goes against what you *know* about him and against what the candidate has written in the past.

You are giving the DLC and the right wing a gift today, I'm sure they'll send you some flowers.

-jason The UpTake

[ Parent ]
More Obama the Rosarch? (4.00 / 2)
So maybe he doesn't understand the nature of the right-wing (very possible).

Or maybe it is the "you don't understand the nature of our campaign."  That was referenced in earlier post (embarassed to admit I don't remember who wrote it) that the Obama camp is winking, just trust, we know what we are doing and we can be Reagan for the left.

I am convinced that is the former one day and the latter the next.

[ Parent ]
I disagree (4.00 / 3)
You state it as if the "nature of the right-wing" is some complicated and hidden reality that only certain individuals are able to recognize and react to. You fail to accept the idea that there are multiple ways to react to one's enemies - it does not always have to be attack, attack, attack. I think it is naive to assume that a professional politician - and a damn good one at that - is oblivious to the realities of how the opposition functions. How could he be? How could ANY of us be after the last seven years?

You get more flies with honey, and so on. I don't see why this is such an unbelievable concept to many of us here. Attacking does not only mean calling out the other side and beating them down with your words. Strategically, this form of attack is probably the least effective. Strategically, there are many other ways to go about weakening and co-opting your opponents.

If Obama somehow manages to peel off some significant layer of conservative-leaning voters with his toned-down rhetoric, then he will have achieved a monumental success for progressivism. If he scares them off with harsh language and relentless attacks, he will be doing a disservice to the progressive movement. We can only grow as a movement by Changing Minds, and yelling at people rarely achieves this.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
How? (0.00 / 0)
When has that positive approach ever worked?  Honestly, I'm just curious.  The right and corporate interests won't give up their power without a hell of a fight.  How will he manage it?

[ Parent ]
This is an important point (4.00 / 1)
The key is changing people's minds. That is the beginning and end of the only strategy that will make allow this nation to win over the narrow interests that constrain our society and our economy.

It reminds me of the anarchists (black bloc) I would see at anti-war rallies. They would smash windows and spray-paint and fight cops - in their imagination the revolution had begun. They failed to realize that the revolution they desired would only come to be if they first convinced the masses that they were right. And by prematurely smashing windows, they were only turning off those people who they needed to convince.

I think this is Obama's strategy. I most certainly could be wrong - or I could be right and he could simply fail. Either way, this is the closest I have seen to an effective long-term strategy for change ever put forth by the Democratic party. Yelling at corporations doesn't work. Negotiating with them doesn't work. Out-flanking them may work. It is potentially game-changing.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
When has he done this? (0.00 / 0)
When has he persuaded people to approve of a progressive policy or issue?  Considering that the will right will attack him ferociously if he does, how will he do this?

[ Parent ]
In Illinois (0.00 / 0)
He spent 6 of his 8 years serving in a Republican controlled legislature in Illinois.

He ended tax breaks for businesses. He worked to enact a law requiring videotaping of police interrogations. He worked to enact a law that tracked racial profiling during traffic stops by police. He voted against an incredibly sensitive abortion law that would have required medical treatment for fetuses that survive abortion procedures. He helped pass a earned-income tax credit for low income families. He co-sponsored a discount program for prescription drugs for seniors. He reformed the state's death penalty system. He cosponsored an unsuccessful ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. He cosponsored a rare ethics reform bill in a state well-known for widespread corruption.

He had a consistently liberal voting records and he managed to get a lot of these things passed in a legislature controlled by Republicans.

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
Triumph of Cynicism (4.00 / 9)
The Reagan coalition was a triumph of cynicism and tribalism.  It was the fruitition of the 'southern strategy' of Nixon. Either Obama doesn't understand that or he's pandering shamelessly.

No big deal (0.00 / 0)
Obama wants to transcend partisan politics, which is why I don't support him, but in this clip he's simply indulging in a little historical analysis--and he's right. 

It is irritating (4.00 / 2)
OK, I'm an Obama supporter but dammit it is irritating although there is something to the point that Obama seemed to be explaining it within the frame of Reagan's supporters and the political reallignment of 1980.

Reagan's worst legacy was environmental and the Iraq war.  Jimmy Carter has us on a road toward energy sanity.  If his energy policy had blossomed global warming would probably not be the crisis that it is today and we would not be fighting wars for oil. The Iraq war is more complicated than that and has more flaws but it is, essentially, a war for oil.

yeah (0.00 / 0)
I do like the 1980 election as an analogy.

[ Parent ]
This is the major take-away (4.00 / 3)
We can talk about the specifics, but the main thing is demographic preferences.  Going into the 1980 election, a vast majority of the population was unhappy with the Democrats, including independents and moderate Dems.  That opened up an opportunity for the GOP that Reagan deftly exploited.  Did he used race-baiting and such to consolidate his base?  Sure.  But he also, from what I've read (I was born in 1982, but have read a lot about electoral politics from the 60's on) offered a stirring, positive vision of what America could be, a vision that appealed to independents and moderate GOPers.  That wide-base of support (Reagan Dems--yuck) allowed him to deftly mainstream GOP frames and policies.  He did all that by tapping into the general feelings of the country (which is important: Obama said Reagan got the feelings of the country right, not that he agreed with where Reagan took the country)

Obama's point is that this election is like that one: independents and moderate Republicans (and even moderate values voters) are completely disillusioned with their leaders and are ripe for the picking, if we go after them.  That's an opportunity to mainstream Democratic policies like a public market for healthcare, restraint in militarism abroad, easing the tax burden on the middle class, etc etc.  But we need an advocate who can tap into the general feelings of the country right now, like Reagan did in the 80s

He's arguing that he's that candidate.  His peerless popularity with independents, 50+% favorable rating among registered Republicans, high favorability within the Dem party (I've seen him consistently at the 75-85 range there, same as Hillary) certainly suggests that he might be right.  The fact that "Obama Republicans" were already popping up in Iowa and NH further fuels that idea.

I don't think this is a crazy stretch. 

Whether you agree with where he wants to steer the country is another matter altogether, but I think the analogy is sound, the opportunity is there, and there is good evidence that Obama is positioned to take that opportunity.  There's also some good evidence that Clinton is not.

That's an important conversation to have, IMO.  And it should include John Edwards too (not convinced he can do it, but it's worth discussing)

[ Parent ]
For someone who wasn't there (0.00 / 0)
You understand the election of 1980 very well.

I think that is what Obama is getting at.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
I'd like to add (0.00 / 1)
I don't think your post read that clip correctly at all, but I think you've taken a real clear, level-headed approach to discussion here in the comments, and props to you for that.  Paul Rosenberg could take a cue from you on how to cut emotion and condescension out of rebuttals, at least in this thread.

[ Parent ]
So why was it Jimmy Carter failed to change America (0.00 / 0)
and Reagan succeeded?  Just because we would have preferred Jimmy Carter's changes (or Gore's over Bush's) is no reason to wilfully avoid studying why Reagan succeeded and Carter didn't.  In fact, it is precisely because we hate what Reagan did that we ought to try to figure out how he did it, and saying he was evil and the people are stupid isn't any kind of analysis that will help Dems win elections, much less be able to mobilize people behind them.  I think the real problem here is that there hasn't been any real political leadership since many people here came of age. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Obama is pandering. (4.00 / 5)
Reagan was a total disaster.
He destroyed the Union movement
The Falklands.
Poor getting poorer and the rich getting much richer.

But every goddam thing in the U.S. is named after him, so the ubiquitous Mr. O.
evokes his name - as he also did recently with Bush 1.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile is barely mentioned these days unless it is to excoriate her for something or other.

John Edwards barely exists as a topic.

Photos are everywhere of Obama.

You find it "disturbing" that Obama admires Reagan and the reasons for his admiration.

But I'll bet my bottom dollar that you'll endorse Obama over Clinton, who has more heart, brains and experience - or Edwards, who is actually trying to put the issue of corporate greed and manipulation before us as an issue.

Ah - puppy love.

The Falklands? (4.00 / 1)
I'm all for blaming a lot on Reagan but the Falklands War?  Sure, the US tilted toward the brits but that was the one bad thing in the 1980's that was not Reagan's fault.

[ Parent ]
Ummmmm...No. (4.00 / 6)
"There are many reason progressives should admire Ronald Reagan, politically speaking.  He realigned the country around his vision, he brought into power a new movement that created conservative change, and he was an extremely skilled politician.  But that is not why Obama admires Reagan.  Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' and that government had grown large and unaccountable."

Sorry Matt, this just isn't what Obama is saying at all (and he's made very similar remarks about Reagan before, including I think in his book).  Somehow you have managed to disagree with Obama for saying exactly what you are saying about Reagan, that Reagan realigned politics around his vision and a new conservative movement.  There is absolutely no evidence that Obama believes in Reagan's vision, but he is absolutely correct in arguing that Reagan's presidency was fundamentally different in terms of changing the political discourse in a way that neither Nixon's nor Clinton's was.  To bring the argument full circle, he is of course arguing that he is the candidate that can fundamentally change the direction of the country, although in a progressive way.

Context -- Compare and Contrast (4.00 / 1)
Matt, I think you missed the salient point here -- Obama is comparing the Clinton era, and contrasting it's lack of a political legacy with Reagan's realignment.

Shorter Answer -- Obama is bashing the Clintons, saying they were less politically effective than Reagan.

I hope that's all it is, but that is what he is saying here -- and he's right. The Clintons left the Democrats in worse shape than we were in 1992, and I expect Hillary will do the same.

[ Parent ]
Bingo (4.00 / 1)
TPM says what I tried to say --

Obama: Reagan Changed Country's Direction In A Way Bill Clinton Didn't


Barack compares today's desire for a new direction with the electorate's mood in 1980 -- and explains why Hillary can't meet it.

[ Parent ]
African Americans for Reagan? (0.00 / 0)
I don't know why anyone is surprised by this.  After all, Obama's lack of ideology on a host of issues, including on social security, healthcare mandates, etc, is well known.

In particular, I would be very interested in Obama's assessment as to how effective a President Reagan was for African Americans.

Admire? (4.00 / 8)
Matt, where did you get the word admire from? Was it from a part of the interview that you didn't transcribe?

Yes, I'm playing dumb here a bit. The headline was quite strong ... I was prepared to wince as I listened to the tape. But I don't see what the big deal is.

Reagan tapped into a pissed off public mood and channeled that into a conservative paradigm shift. We're at a similar fork in the road today -- and some of us believe that Obama has the same potential to channel public anger into a progressive paradigm shift. This is the reason I have come to support his candidacy.

You can disagree with this. That's fine. But please don't sensationalize what the candidates are saying -- leave that for Huffington, Drudge and Fox News. Obama never came close to saying he admired Reagan's politics.

Double standards (0.00 / 0)
That's what I don't understand: the overwhelming majority of Obama supporters on this site condemned the Clintons (and still do!) for being "racists"--an ugly smear--when both of their quotes were innocuous and here they are asking that Obama who clearly praised Reagan for right-wing reasons and they're defending him.  Double standards turned on a dime.  I bet if Clinton had said this, there'd be calls for her to quit.

[ Parent ]
I think you're mistaken (4.00 / 3)
I don't understand your interpretation of Obama's comment. It's pretty clear that he doesn't agree with Regan's politics, and Obama certainly wasn't against the Civil Rights or Feminism movements. What he's saying here is that he wants to be a realigning figure for the Democrats, to open up the tent to a score of new people, just like Regan did for the Republicans. Regan did get a 49 state landslide in '84, which is something Obama is certainly aiming to emulate.

Way off base (4.00 / 5)
At this point I have no real preference among Clinton/ Obama/ Edwards, but I find Stoller's argument persuasive, but off base.  I have to take a giant leap to believe that Obama specifically admirers Reagan because he countered the "excesses" or rather the "successes of anti-war, civil rights, consumer rights, environmental and feminist movements of the 60s and 70s." 

One could conclude that Obama admires how Reagan skillfully tapped into the anger among the eventual Reagan coalition which included Democrats (non-progressives, but Dems nonetheless who did not oppose any of Stoller's "excesses") their dissatisfaction with high taxes, high inflation, high unemployment, poor handling of Hostage crisis in Iran, etc.  This is also the time of "white flight" into suburbia, forced busing to integrate education (which I oppose), Nixon scandal, etc.

While Obama does not mention any of Stoller's perceived "excesses" he does refer to the "trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating."

Like it or not, liberal or progressive democrats did not stand in the way when the Clinton administration, triangulated the reform of Welfare in 1996.  A very progressive program which many liberals or progressives (you choose which label you like best) supported the reform to limit number of years one can receive benefits, etc.  Like the program, don't like how government runs it because of the perception of a system out of control.  That's just liberal thought, of course conservatives truly wanted it repealed altogether.

To date there has been no real progressive backlash, not even to Hillary who was there (gaining her whitehouse experience) as she runs for president today.

My impression is that he is messaging to Nevadans who have little faith in government, a belief not exclusive to small government conservatives, those who believe it is largely unaccountable and have little hope in its ability to unify the country and get America on the right path.  I actually think it is consistent with his message of hope or change where as the people should have a voice in their government. 

Just my soapbox.


Put another way (4.00 / 4)
Wouldn't we all by incredibly excited if a candidate did for the Dems and the political culture now what Reagan did for the GOP and the political culture then?

I mean, wouldn't that be fucking fantastic?

Isn't that exactly what Obama is saying he wants to do, and thinks he's positioned to do?

This Ain't the Way To Do It (4.00 / 9)
Reagan did not go on and on about the political genius of FDR and democrats.  Nor did he talk about getting beyond party.  This is where Obama is dead wrong. 

To the extent Reagan created a realignment (and really it was Goldwater that started it), it was entirely partisan.  That's how realignment's occur - they aren't about any one politician's gifts for getting along, they are about a politician - or series of politicians - building up their own party's brand and ideas while discrediting the other party, often brutally.

[ Parent ]
You are wrong about that (0.00 / 0)
Reagan was a great admirer of FDR and knew what he had meant for the country.  Reagan was a Democrat until he became an anti-communist and started making money.  He knew how people had felt about FDR.  What he did was manage to fracture the FDR coalition and peel off the working class folks who were pissed about the hippies and about know-it-all liberals telling them they had to integrate their communities and schools, but he did it  without attacking FDR directly. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Excuse me people... (4.00 / 8)
...for the one's defending Obama's peaen to Mr. Raygun short memories seem to be a monumental affliction.  Forget koolaid, this is just delusional denial.  Movement?  No, the movement you are refering to was started by Barry Goldwater.  Reagan just bent down and picked up the torch after it was kicked out of Goldwater's hand by Lyndon Johnson.  The 1965 Civil Rights bill was signed after the Democratic party committed national political suicide and became a regional party by falling on ther sword to stand for the right thing to do.

Later, like Zeus on Mt. Olympus Reagan would beget the likes of pea brains like Grover Norquist.  Mr. Norquist is in fact the embodiment of Reagan's so called "movement."  I guess Mr. Obama forgot where Reagan began his campaign in 1980?  Philadelphia, Mississippi?  Ring any bells?  This wasn't a dogwhistle stop here - - this was a slap in the face to all that died for that break the Democratic party made from their racist past to finally take up the mantle and do the right thing.  Bullshit to Mr. Obama.  I don't care how many damn street he walked in Chicago, the people who gave their lives for civil rights in those "excess years" of the 1960's are still freakin' dead.

Norquist and his crowd weren't heeding the siren call of a some damn dogwhistle.  They responded to Reagan's bellicose indictment about "government being THE problem."  This spawned a generation of blowholes and idiots following Reagan's lead with opium like highs about killing "The" problem.  And the line they used?  "I don't trust the government, I trust the American people."  Jesus, folks, that was the damn dogwhistle.  Lincoln died reminding us in the Gettysberg address what Jefferson and Madison somehow never spelled out for us common folk the very thing they alluded to in the abstract:  [...]we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people".  Reagan, that son of a bitch knew that.  The "government" is the people.  The American people those yammering blowhards were always defending were the large corporations filled with their American people.  Get it?  That's who they were telling you they trusted.

This video has really pissed me off.  I don't mean to be cryptic by stating the obvious here.  I'll post about it in a more sobering fashion later this evening on my blog when I've cooled down.  But seeing this peice of drivel uttered by Obama pandering to those cretins making up the editioral board for the Nevada paper I can't even bring myself to mention makes me want to beat the crap out of something.  I've taken years of bullshit "partisanship" speeches from the right when it only suits them and people telling me my liberal views represent everything wrong with America.  I've never suffered fools uttering that bullshit and Obama can take his "unity" speech and shove it.

Jesus, the misty-eyed defense of this bullshit spouted by Obama makes me want to wretch.  If I'm John Edwards I'm playing this damn video on a loop everywhere and as long as my money would last.  I'm not a Hillary supporter either but she is infinitely more palatable than this charlatan.  And Markos voted for this blowhard?  Christ.


Truman's Conscience

Re: Excuse me people... (4.00 / 3)
Can not give enough recommends for this comment. Right the f on.

Thank you for spelling out what is so baffling to many of us who just don't get how Obama and his supporters think being reasonable and talking nice to the Radical Regressives will somehow sway them to ever do the rigt thing. Ever.

[ Parent ]
Amazingly correct this comment nails it. (4.00 / 1)
We had an Obama cultist at our last meetup and his entire perspective was totally, absolutely, wildly fact free. This 26 year old black man had no clue. No clue at all about what actually happened in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, or even the fukin' 90s.

No clue.

Like the ignorant Obama and Clinton tribalists who say, 'Wow! This is great a black running for the first time. A woman running for the first time.'

If you don't know who Shirley Chisolm was....

If you don't know who Jesse Jackson is....

You need to STFU!

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
We Need New People (0.00 / 0)
Shirley's name is spelled Chisholm. 

This isn't a history final, it's an election with a lot of new people getting involved.  I think that is great. 

[ Parent ]
My bad on the spelling error, seriously... (0.00 / 0)
.....I don't agree with you for this reason.

The 'new people' Obama brings in and I've met more that a few have two characteristics:

They are very, very ill-informed about the political history of the U.S.

They are absolutely not interested in hearing anything about said history and how it might apply to today.

Jim Jones brought a lot of people to Guayana.

That didn't turn out too well.

And yeah, I am serious. Obama supporters, the young ones which are who you are referring to, are ignorant and view any perspective other than their own as a personal affront. I've been tolerant. I've talked. I've listened. No use.

They don't want to hear anything...They already know.

And you, if you don't 'believe' you are the enemy. Simple as that.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
Not The First Time (4.00 / 3)
I agree the part about the 60s and 70s excesses were disturbing.  I might not mind if Obama hadn't previously talked about how Clinton would just re-fight those 1960s battles, while he wants to move beyond them.  Well, we all want to move beyond them, but we don't necessarily get to make that decision.  Because those fights still need to be fought and pretending that they don't isn't going to change that.  And the unity stuff isn't going to solve any of those big issues, if conservatives were willing to agree on these things, the fights would've been over a long time ago.

He also totally seems to buy into the myth of Reagan the optimist, which is disturbing to see from an African-American democrat. 

Accountability (4.00 / 1)
I also think that this comment reflects the community organizer in Obama. It's important to remember that the liberalism of the Great Society was completely top-down and unaccountable. There were major critiques of it from the left, all of which filtered into the current community organizing world (the NWRO and ACORN, Citizen Action, the IAF, and so on). It is unimaginable that Obama isn't thinking of this when we talks about accountability.

Just about everyone in America was in some way frustrated with the government over the course of the 70's. Reagan successfully convinced a majority of Americans that his solutions were the right ones. I think what Obama is saying now is that there is a moment where everyone is upset and Reagan's example shows how that breeds realignment.

Basically, he does agree with Reagan (as did most and as should you) that there was a problem with an unaccountable government by 1980. He doesn't agree with Reagan about the substance of that problem or the solution.

This analysis is a bit simplistic (4.00 / 3)
The 1970's generally were not a good decade for the country economically as a whole, despite the movements Matt mentioned above.

Here are few of the problems that plagued the country for nearly the entire decade:

Stagflation (stagnant wages with rapid inflation)

High unemployment

A foreign policy in tatters (fall of Saigon, Iran hostage crisis)

Sky-high energy prices

Exploding crime

A government that seemed adrift and unresponsive to the country's problems.  Carter's malaise speech.  Government, rightly or wrongly, became associated with the country's 1970's economic decline.

Above all, there was a general feeling in the country that America's best days were behind it.  Now Reagan probably got a lot of Southern votes using Nixon's Southern Strategy, but an entire decade of a declining economy with a government that offered no real answers mattered more.  Reagan's answers were not the right answers, but they were different from the status quo.  Reagan promised to right the economic ship, and on this front, he campaigned very optimistically.  People responded.

I think it's entirely too simplistic to pin Reagan's election on backlash against the movements of the 60's and 70's.  Among some voters, that did play a role, but the 70's just were not a good decade for the American electorate.  Reagan offered his version of "change."  Compared to the 1970's status quo Carter was offering, the people went for it.

Matt, are you sure you're... (4.00 / 2)
...reading him correctly?  To me Barack sounds like he is most clearly stating that "the people" were ready to hear what Reagan said because -they- believed that the government was excessive and unaccountable.  I hear him drawing a parallel between his idea of THIS government and Reagan's idea of THAT one, but I don't hear him making any claim for or against Reagan's (or the American peoples') perceptions of the Federal government of the 1970s.  Given this, shouldn't a progressive like you and I be glad to hear him subverting a familiar and powerful frame to cast today's government as unacceptable and abusive?  It's the corporate abuses of power that are the source of today's disillusionment, not fear of civil rights.  Obama is harnessing that here.  Do you really believe, based on this quote, that Obama -- a community organizer by nature -- believes that the civil rights movement and feminist movement were excessive and unneccessary?  I ask you to re-parse the statement you quoted and consider that you might be crucially misunderstanding what Barack's saying here.

First time commenter, long-time netrootizen...

sort of (4.00 / 5)
Do you really believe, based on this quote, that Obama -- a community organizer by nature -- believes that the civil rights movement and feminist movement were excessive and unneccessary?

I see Obama adopting a bunch of conservative lines of argument, including the notion of 'excess' as a descriptive term to apply to the 1960s and 1970s.  Social unrest was messy, yes, but it was also necessary.  The country was segregated, in a war in Vietnam, and oppressive to women.  The 'excesses' changed that. 

And it wasn't just government that people didn't like; there were strong negative feelings about business, labor, the military and the government.  Any of these themes could have been used for a populist sunny message.  Reagan chose a sunny populist message organized around hating liberal social programs because they helped welfare queens, hint hint.

The right-wing is an extremely powerful force in this country, and it began opposing progressives in an organized way in its modern incarnation in the early 1970s.  The deification of Reagan as a sunny optimist and the whitewashing of his political power as not coming on the backs of women and minorities is dangerous.  I'm not saying that Obama is a right-winger, far from it.  He has been terrific on, say, voting rights.  I am saying Obama in these statements is showing himself unwilling to confront the real demons that will face him in office, those demons who brought Reagan to power.

I could be wrong and I hope I am, and there are obviously many ways to read his statements.  This is just my read.  I would very much caution you against putting arguments like mine out of the realm of possibility; they may come in handy if Obama finds himself unable to move progressive legislation in the face of conservative intransience, or, worse, if he never tries to move that kind of legislation at all.

[ Parent ]
Obama Puts His Foot in His Mouth (4.00 / 4)
Why when we have 7 years of a disastrous Republican presidency can't Obama find arguments for supporting his presidential candidacy in recent political history?

Why can't he use the past 7 years to paint a forward looking picture of what he would do if elected to succeed Bush to rectify his errors?

His remarks about Reagan demonstrate that there is something very wrong with Obama's tactics AND political philosophy on how to bring people together.

Why bring up a divisive figure like Reagan whom so many Democrats find repugnant when you are trying to win the Democratic nomination for president?

Obama has really taken a dive here which I think can and should reverberate and send him into a downward free-fall.

I never imagined that Obama could make Hillary look so good, but in comparison to her sophisticated stimulus package his off-the-wall remark in last night's debates about cutting taxes as an economic stimulus to ward off the coming recession shows that he has far too much to learn to be our stand-bearer.

If you add this to his completely wrong-headed analysis of Social Security and his sabre-rattling about attacking al Qaeda inside Pakistan, he appears more and more like a losing proposition for self-respecting Democrats and progressives.

[ Parent ]
Exactly, but.... (4.00 / 2)
And it wasn't just government that people didn't like; there were strong negative feelings about business, labor, the military and the government.  Any of these themes could have been used for a populist sunny message.  Reagan chose a sunny populist message organized around hating liberal social programs because they helped welfare queens, hint hint.

Exactly, Reagan gained power at a moment when people were ready for a fundamental change in direction.  He could have gone in many directions, but went the way he did.

Obama's whole point is we are in a point like that now.  We can re-align again.

Where Reagan explicitly sold the concept that government was the problem, Obama sells the point that these problems are solvable [by working with the government].  All of his sub-themes, "shinning light on the process", reform, etc. are all about restoring faith in the government.  This is the opposite of Reagan's message.

[ Parent ]
Trust and judgement (4.00 / 2)
The last paragraph of Matt's comment raises one of the key perceptual differences that divide commenters in this thread.  While some question Obama's motives/honesty, the more widespread concern seems to be doubts regarding his willingness to fight and his judgement as to how much and in what forms this willingness to fight will be required in the general election and even more so if he was elected.  Personally, the more I listen to and read about him, the more inclined I am to trust both his motives and his judgement.

But I don't see this video clip as shedding any real light on this question.  Like others in this thread, I see Obama's statements as an attempt to highlight the political significance of (not the benefits of) Reagan's electoral success and the prospects that Obama (and not Clinton) has the potential to achieve a comparable realignment of voters. 

Like some other commenters, I think Matt's initial statement that "Obama admires Reagan because he agrees with Reagan's basic frame..." is a fundamental misreading of what Obama was saying.  As someone noted, he didn't say (or even suggest) that he "admired" Reagan. 

I read Obama's reference to the "excesses of the 60s and 70s....." as mainly a shorthand summary of what a lot of people were feeling at that time--including plenty of Democrats like my father, who was a lifelong straight-ticket-voting Democratic activist/public servant who voted for Reagan at least once.  Yes, there were plenty of folks who voted in favor of greed, racism, etc., but others were genuinely confused, frustrated, afraid and tired after a decade or so of growing economic problems and a sense that our country was losing its way, and who embraced a seemingly likeable candidate who offered them a message that gave them some relief from that negativity.  As Matt said, the Reagan candidacy was mainly a charade.  But it was one that succeeded in cementing a political realignment.  I think Obama's core political-strategy message is that we now have an opportunity to "reverse" that realignment, and that this is perhaps the most important element of the 2008 election.

Since some of Obama's statements do seem to acknowledge some elements of truth in the conservative perspective, a key question is how we interpret the intended meaning and significance of these statements.

Many here seem to view this either as weakness, a lack of progressive values, or a sign of dishonest and dangerous pandering, or some combination of these.  My view is that there are probably traces of all of these running through Obama (as there are in most political figures and most human beings), but that these are outweighed by his strengths and his strategy, especially as these relate to the potential for realignment.  As time goes by, my sense that he embodies a healthy balance among these elements increases rather than decreases, along with my sense of the potential benefits associated with his strategy. 

My sense is that Obama will fight hard when he needs to fight, but will seek to create new alliances where that's possible.  If he's willing to fight back when attacked by other Democrats--who he mainly agrees with--what makes people think he won't fight back when attacked by right-wing Republicans with whom he disagrees on most every issue?  I don't get it.

I don't know what's in Obama's head, but my guess is that he realizes how fundamentally vulnerable the ruling Republican leadership/coalition is.  As the Republican primary events suggest, it seems to be crumbling under the weight of its own corruption, internal contradictions and accumulated cognitive dissonance.

In this environment, its a legitimate question about whether the better general election strategy would be to hammer on these contradictions--which could be effective, but also risks triggering defensive tribal identities and re-cementing portions of the Republican coalition--or instead to present a positive alternative that can attract large numbers of those whose allegiance to the Republican party is already waning. 

I think striking the right balance and having the right mix of personal traits to communicate each one at the right time and in the most effective way is key for a successful "realignment" candidate and a serving "realignment" president.  That's what Obama seems to have in common with Reagan, not their views on policy.  And my view is that this is more or less what Obama was trying to convey to the newspaper editorial board in that video segment.

[ Parent ]
"I could be wrong and I hope I am..." (0.00 / 0)

Do you extend this ray of hope to any of the other candidates of whom you are critical?

[ Parent ]
Regan and the AIDS Epidemic (0.00 / 0)
I'll just add that in the early 1980's there was an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of people in our country, most of them gay men.  It was called AIDS.  Presidential leadership could have saved some of those people, both in terms of medical research and education, such as use of condoms.  President Reagan did not lead.  A lot of good people died.

[ Parent ]
Well, looks like Matt (0.00 / 0)
still doesn't have a candidate unless it is Dennis.  Must be a rude awakening.

Jim Hightower's video that he posted earlier today is kind of interesting too.

Reagan Democrats (0.00 / 0)
Is there more to the transcript?  Because the way I heard it - there was no reason someone running for the Democratic nomination had to invoke Reagan's name in such a positive manner and leave the excesses of the 60's connotation.  Sorry Obama people it seems to me to be an obvious ploy to get independents and Republican votes. Especially the slap at Bill Clinton. If you are a Democrat and you want to mention someone who truly moved the social path of the country you can mention FDR . Just the mention of Reagan is a dog whistle for Democrats and for Republicans

Matt, Edwards will NOT be the nominee (0.00 / 0)
I would hope that you would think more carefully, as you try and continually turn away progressives from Obama. Obama is FAR from perfect, but you better stop listening to Joe Trippi. I read that Trippi is salavating at the prospect of the Cinton and Obama campaigns imploding over the race-baiting few weeks, but it isn't going to happen.
You have really stretched the truth here concerning Obama's comments. I hate Reagan, but I understood what Obama was trying to do. Keep it up and we will have Hillary as the nominee, and either Huckabee or Romney as Prez.

I think you misunderstand here (0.00 / 0)
Matt likes Obama in general, but continues to get disappointed because Obama isn't quite fitting the ideology of Open Left. He's not happy either with the other two.

[ Parent ]
Once again, Stoller slams Obama based on some imagined reality (4.00 / 3)
Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and '70s have a completely different interpretation of Obama's comment.

This was a time when widespread municipal corruption, organized crime, and extortionist labor unions (some mob-linked) helped to bankrupt cities. Property taxes rose, corporate taxes rose, then businesses left, jobs left and high-wage earners left. Schools suffered, cities went into disrepair.

Homelessness, crime, and drug addiction became national epidemics. The Vietnam War destroyed families and led to a kind of national despair.

Add in the civil rights movements -- for blacks, women, gays, Native Americans -- along with the anti-war movement and Watergate, and it seemed like the entire country was coming unraveled at once. All the government institutions meant to help the middle class -- public schools, unions, welfare -- weren't functioning like they should have been.  So, when Obama says ...

government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

... he's absolutely right.

That's why Reagan's claim that "government isn't the solution, it's the problem" resonated with so many people. Ridding cities of organized crime with the help of RICO laws helped turn cities around, as did an influx of young college-educated people looking to join the system they once protested against. 

But those anti-government sentiments still linger. Now, however, the Republican Party is bearing the brunt of those sentiments because they have clearly demonstrated they are incapable of governing. People have come to realize that institutions like labor unions, the FDA and Social Security actually matter, and they're pissed that Republicans continue to try to destroy them.

Absolutely insane.... (4.00 / 3)
Let's get the Elephant in the room here folks. Here boy, here boy. Here he is:

Richard Milhouse Nixon!

Yeah, baby! The shear unadulterated ignorance of  talking about Reagan's mobilization of the low-info voters, that's what 'Reagan Democrats' are if you really check it out, to further the 'conservative' push that started with Goldwater without talking about Mr. Nixon is very typical of ObamaThink.

Let's start with Reagan's famous phrase, 'government isn't the solution; it's the problem...'. Anyone on this thread think he could have been elected saying that in 1948?

Do you really? After FDR's terms, Social Security, WWII. No, I think not he'd have been laughed into oblivion. So, what happened to make President Ronnie possible with such a anti-government agenda.

Nixon happened. He mired us in an unwinnable war, sounds familiar that, wrecked the economy...uh..oh! and practiced the politics of division using race and cultural fault lines.

But Ronnie fixed that?

No, Ronnie lied about the causes of the nation's problems and....


There was this national 'Healing' that was going on. The 'Wise Men of Washington' pontificated and shouted to the heavens that after the transgressions of Richard Milhous Nixon what the nation needed was not accountablity! No, no, never that. We needed 'healing' so....

Forget it was a Republican 'Crook' who was 'Not a Liar' who fucked a generation in Vietnam...who destroyed the economy....who enabled racism to find a home in the Republican Party; forget all that.

But that meant that some 'fall guy' had to be found for the nation's problems. Ronnie found that 'fall guy'.

Government itself.

Obama admires what Ronnie did? He signs on to how, even though Senator 'Hope' gives no indication he understands just how Ronnie did that by taking a page from the Nixon playbook...Blaming someone else...blacks...the poor...the DFHs. He admires that?

Fuck him.

I think that the Obama supporters here in this thread are some of the most ill-informed, clueless Americans I have listened to....

Since the last time I wasted this much time on Senator 'Dope', thanks for the inspiration for a new nickname for him at least Matt,. and his legions of fact-free followers.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
Nice sentiments ... thanks for the kind words (4.00 / 1)
The fact that Reagan and the Republican Party used race to divide the middle class -- just like they're using immigration, gay rights, etc. now -- does not refute the facts that cities were disintegrating, that city governments were corrupt, that organized crime was eating into business profits and city revenues, and that many labor unions were not helping the rank and file.

Yes, Reagan tapped into that social and economic uncertainty and blamed it on welfare mothers. That helped him win the bigot vote. 

But how do you explain the overwhelming landslide victories? 1980: 489 electoral votes to 49 electoral votes for Carter; 1984 against Mondale, Reagan won 49 of 50 states!!! That is unprecedented popularity. If you think that was all due to racism then you're just lying to yourself. Reagan's optimism, his "Morning in America," themes of national pride, individual responsibility ... all played a part too.

If unions hadn't abused their powers, Reagan's attacks would have fallen on deaf ears. If cities weren't weakened by corruption, cronyism and organized crime, Reagan's attacks on government would have sounded asinine. Yes, Reagan was scum -- he tapped into people's fears and gave them some scapegoats. But in the eyes of many voters, Reagan was holding the government, unions and individual citizens accountable. And at the time," as Obama says, "there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how [the government] was operating."

What bothers me most, though, is that Stoller takes one comment by Obama and uses it to insinuate that Obama *endorsed* Reagan's policies. That's just ridiculous. Stoller says:

[Obama] *agrees* with Reagan's basic frame that the 1960s and 1970s were full of 'excesses' ... Those excesses, of course, were feminism, the consumer rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the antiwar movement.  The libertarian anti-government ideology of an unaccountable large liberal government was designed by ideological conservatives to take advantage of the backlash against these 'excesses'.

That's not what Obama said, and I can't figure out why Stoller would imply Obama was anti-feminism and civil rights. It's horsecrap. Obama was talking about Reagan tapping into voters' feeling that there was a lack of accountability in government.  That's all. And, right now, there's that same feeling.

By the way, I never voted for Reagan, but I do know why friends and family members did.

[ Parent ]
Good analysis (0.00 / 0)
Both of them.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Great Presidents (4.00 / 1)
Quoth Obama on what makes a great president:

Obviously, most of the time, it seems, that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself and 90 percent of it set by circumstances. So, you know, an Abraham Lincoln is defined by slavery and the war, FDR defined by the Depression and, and World War II. So I'm not sure that I can categorize what is, is-are those ingredients in each and every circumstance.

But I think, when I think about great presidents, I think about those who transform how we think about ourselves as a country in fundamental ways so that, that, at the end of their tenure, we have looked and said to ours-that's who we are. And, and our, our-and for me at least, that means that we have a more expansive view of our democracy, that we've included more people into the bounty of this country. And, you know, there are circumstances in which, I would argue, Ronald Reagan was a very successful president, even though I did not agree with him on many issues, partly because at the end of his presidency, people, I think, said, "You know what? We can regain our greatness. Individual responsibility and personal responsibility are important." And they transformed the culture and not simply promoted one or two particular issues.

Phooey (4.00 / 2)
"Ronald Reagan was a very successful president, even though I did not agree with him on many issues, partly because at the end of his presidency, people, I think, said, "You know what? We can regain our greatness." (Obama)

I don't know ANYONE who, after enduring the Reagan years, sat around and said, "You know what? We can regain our greatness."

I can just see the fellas, sitting at the bar, tossin' down a few beers, and sayin'
"You know what? We can regain our greatness. (burrrrp).

Obama is a teller of tales.

[ Parent ]
Reagan (4.00 / 3)
was recruited, bought and sold by GE and the corporate right-wing power structure. He was a front man, not a politician, and the power elite funded and controlled his presidency. He lied with impunity and was effectively the most regressive president of my lifetime.

Obama and Reagan? Please! I hope not!

Obama and Reagan? Please! I hope not! (0.00 / 0)
'fraid so.

[ Parent ]
Matt, A Request (0.00 / 0)
This post has already generated a lot of comments, so I perfectly understand if my own post and request gets lost.

But for those of us who are younger (I was born in 1985), we are dependent on other to generate the narrative of the past--such as Reagan's rise and the transition from the 1970s and 1980s.

In High School, I received a 5 on the AP US History exam, a perfect 800 on the US History SAT II, and a perfect 600 on my state's standardized US History test.

Which means, in all likelihood, that I know everything on those tests and nothing more.

I was always taught that Proposition 13, and the anti-tax movement that spread out across the country following its success, was a symbol of a country that believed, in Obama's words, "government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating."  There was something going on in the country that Reagan tapped into.  Something that Goldwater couldn't do in 1964.  Something happened, right?

But I've also been to Mississippi, working in politics, and I know about Philadelphia, I know about Ronald Reagan's pandering to white racists, and I agree with your assessment that he was a "savvy politician using a civil rights backlash to catapult conservatives to power."

Do you think that Open Left might host a series of posts (from whoever is willing to step up, maybe Paul would be best for this task) to focus on the history of the Reagan Revolution?  I know that in the grand narrative, Paul's done an excellent job of focusing on how the biggest shift has been Southern whites away from the Democratic Party--perfectly in step with the narrative of Reagan pandering to racists.  But the difference between 1964 and 1980 wasn't in the South, it was outside the South.  What factors went into explaining that difference?

Reagan Democrats (0.00 / 0)
Republicans presidential candidates were already winning most Southern whites before Reagan arrived. What Reagan did was play on urban centered racism to win Northern and Western states. Reagan Democrats are white, working-class, non-Southern voters who fled the cities. A key census demographic that correlates with voting Republican is commute time.

[ Parent ]
Reagan Revolution (0.00 / 0)
So were northern and western whites more racist in 1980 than in 1964?

What factors went into that?

[ Parent ]
cars and civil rights (0.00 / 0)
Cars, highways and Civil Rights Act of 1964 drove white flight in an attempt to re-segregate.

[ Parent ]
Civil Rights (0.00 / 0)
So the Civil Rights movement convinced Northern and Western whites to support legislation in the 1960s, then they realized what that meant and tried to take it back?

[ Parent ]
Urban riots and unrest (0.00 / 0)
Scared many people--white flight was a big motivator for the suburbs and exurbs.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Prop 13 (0.00 / 0)
As someone said on here recently, anecdotes aren't worth a shit...however, my mother told me she voted for Prop 13 because of horror stories about elderly homeowners being thrown out of their homes because they couldn't pay the ever-rising taxes.
Lack of a sense of accountability about how government was operating sounds like an right-wing frame that was tacked on later.
But that's not to say that there wasn't a crisis of accountability--just that Prop 13 wasn't a response to it. Funny what get's tacked together to create a coherent narrative.

[ Parent ]
Much more to it than racism (0.00 / 0)
Reagan was Governor of California from 1966-1974 (when he was succeeded by Jerry Brown).  Prop 13 happened in 1974 because property values increased greatly (sort of like between 2002 and 2006) and property taxes correspondingly went up, more even than the state really needed.  There was actually, I believe, a budget surplus.  Meanwhile, many older people on fixed incomes saw their taxes going up but inflation (resulting from LBJ not funding the Vietnam War, like Bush).  The Dem Legislature didn't lower proerty taxes.  So Prop 13 passed.  It froze property taxes, and said they could rise only 1-2% a year, or when the property changed hands.  The end reswult was that commercial property (which rarely changes actual ownership) is way undertaxed, and CA has a pretty high income tax.

As an earlier commentator said, the '60s and '70s political and social unrest unsettled many people, and the '70s inflation and economic stagnation ("stagflation"), plus the feeling that the Japanese were going to outclass us, and the loss in the Vietnam War, created a pretty sour mood in many people.  The Iranian hostages were the last straw.  Reagan was personally an optimist and he had around him a cadre of advertising people who really knew how to sell their candidate.  They ran against everything that unsettled people and did promise to restore America's greatness.  The Dems consistently underestimated him and his people.  He did tap into racism in the South, but it was much more than that. It was a reaction to 2 decades of pretty substantial social, political and economic changes that left many people worse off, or at least anxious and confused. And liberals had grown somewhat lazy and didn't do a good enough defense of their policies as Reagan and the GOP demonized them. 

The Dems haven't been so good at mobilizing resentment, and I don't wish that they ever would.  But they need to understand the emotional aspect of campaigning better than they do.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
So (0.00 / 0)
"they felt" = "people like me felt"

more on Reagan's optimism (0.00 / 0)
I agree with Obama that Reagan changed the trajectory of America, but Reagan's so-called optimism was built upon a denial that there were any limitations to anything America or Americans wanted to do within the country or around the world.  Ration gasoline?  No need to.  Urban poverty?  It's really just welfare queens driving Cadillacs.  Cut taxes for the wealthy?  It will increase federal revenues.  Build a missile shield?  Snap my fingers.  Reagan's so-called optimism was a pie-in-the-sky line that appealed to a supposedly rosier time when women, blacks, gays, etc. knew their place and stayed there, quietly.  I don't think Obama agrees with that part of the politics, but the fact that he would again use right-wing language (e.g., "the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s" or an out of control, unaccountable American goverment) to make his point simply reinforces that that language has validity.  I don't know who I'll vote for yet, but the fact that Obama reinforces right-wing talking points while referring to some illusory, right-wing "optimism" as something to strive for doesn't exactly make me want to vote for him.

He was explaining how they felt (0.00 / 0)
Not how he himself feels. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
He's using right-wing language (4.00 / 1)
to explain how Americans, as a group, supposedly felt.  Reagan kept saying it was "morning in America" to disguise his politics of fear and loathing.  The fact that Obama uncritically adopts that language gives it a validity that supports its politics, whether he intends it to or not.

[ Parent ]
This is what bothers me... (0.00 / 0)
"But if you think, as Obama does, that Reagan's rise to power was premised on a sunny optimism in contrast to an out of control government and a society rife with liberal excess, then you don't understand the conservative movement."

Boy, someone has to take Obama aside and explain to him just what these maggots are about.


So (0.00 / 0)
Everyone needs to go read Ezra Klein on this.

Reagan was able to pass things because of (0.00 / 0)
Reagan Democrats. That's how he was able to run over the Democrats. He wasn't my kind of President, but he was a skillful politician.

There will be no such thing as Clinton Republicans. Hers is a Scortched Earth policy and a 50%+1. She might win, but no way she can govern that way.

Disturbing (0.00 / 0)
I finally watched the video (twice). It's extremely upsetting he can talk like this after seven years of Bush/Cheney.

Banned for posting five straight diaries.


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