Will The Real Ronald Reagan Please Stand Up


Reagan. Ehhhh. It's no coincidence all this Obama-Reagan stuff comes up right after Obama announces he is explicitly running as a figurehead; people think Reagan was a figurehead and that wasn't a disaster. That's my take, but digby and others are debating Obama at his word, rather than the 'figurehead' subtext.

Subtext is everything. Obama talks as if Reagan won big with Obama-esque 'New Morning' bullshit. But twin themes of nationalism and demonization fueled the Reagan landslide. 'Optimism' was just the surface overlay--and even that optimism was founded on brute American power (No More Mr. Nice Guy/Jimmy Carter was a wimp). Reagan demonized liberals, hippies and welfare bums. And he ran as a militant anti-communist. Another landslide victor, LBJ, campaigned as a "liberal nationalist" Texas asskicker (albeit a sane one) while demonizing the Radical Right/Goldwater as raving atomic lunatics. ('In your guts, you know he's nuts.')

Nationalism is the only proven path to a landslide presidential win. A side dish of demonization is an unfortunate ingredient. Add a dash of optimism and you get Reagan instead of Nixon. But it's not the dash of optimistic 'flava' that accounts for the Reagan game-changer. It was nationalism and demonization (two elements all post-FDR landslides have in common).

So all this talk of Obama as a 'liberal Reagan' who could change the trajectory of the nation with a landslide win sounds like bullshit to me.

Obama doesn't demonize the Radical Right -- that's Hillary's thing. On the contrary, Obama is explicitly soft on 'The Base.' And he's not a nationalist. His 'Singapore Sympathy' song is anti-nationalist. I don't see an anti-nationalist path to landslide. A narrow win, maybe, but the idea that Obama could win a landslide--that don't hunt. Because he's not channeling Reagan the candidate. He's channelling Reagan the fuzzy-headed figurehead.

The 'Reagan as Figurehead' thing doesn't work for Obama because Reagan ran as a former governor. Whatever Reagan's executive style, it worked for him in California--voters knew Reagan could rein in his delegates. With Obama, not only do we not know who his 'Jim Baker' will be, we have no evidence that Obama can rein in the ambitious personality-type who can serve as Shadow President. Chief Operating Officers and high level A-type egomaniacs are not known for passivity. In fact, one of the toughest jobs of a CEO is not to get backstabbed by the COO.

Another candididate with a necrophiliac Reagan fetish is Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani first sought elected office in 1988, the end of the Reagan era. Giuliani thinks he's Reagan, and he stole straight out of Reagan's playbook. Instead of 'welfare bums/queens' it was the plague of 'squeegee men' -- poor people who, instead of panhandling, offered to wash your car windows for a quarter. And where Reagan channeled John Wayne, Giuliani channeled Charles Bronson ('Death Wish'). Demonization and busting heads --- if you can smile at the same time, you've got it made.

So is there a liberal equivalent to John Wayne that a 'liberal Reagan' could channel to a landslide victory? Because if you mention Reagan's mandate and don't mention John Wayne, you're talking bullshit.


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