"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Reagan Revolution, Part 2

Reagan repeatedly said that the nation’s difficulties could be blamed on the federal government: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” He praised repeatedly praised the American people, indicating that it was the Democrats, not the voters, who were responsible for government getting out of control. People responded positively to his optimistic gospel and to his contrasting of the absolute goodness of the American people with the pure evil of the Soviet empire. The Republicans had marketed themselves as the party of morality and traditional American principles, and they were fortunate in having a candidate who was thoroughly likeable and easy to portray as a man of character. Peggy Noonan, a Reagan speechwriter, was to spearhead the effort to convince the public that he was uniquely a man of character who exemplified American values. It did not matter that his relationships with his own children were not very good or that some of their close friends did not fit this pattern. He clearly possessed great personal charm, was unfailingly courteous, and he constantly spoke in moralistic terms. Americans learned to ignore any information that did not fit the myth.

A man of principles, he consistently cut taxes; they did not notice tax increases on his watch. As a man of principle, he was not expected to offer careful and detailed explanations for policy. Marshall Mc Luhan, the media philosopher, had warned, “Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.” Within the actor-president, persona triumphed over policy. Ronald Reagan was avuncular, charming, and charismatic. It was almost impossible for many to believe that such a man could make serious mistakes. Reagan and his handlers understood that especially in postmodern culture there was no difference between what was true and what was rhetorically seductive.

People in postmodern culture responded positively to what sounded good and were aesthetically pleasing. A charismatic storyteller, Ronald Reagan succeeded in persuading most of the voting public to accept positions they normally opposed, when presented in other terms. Postmodern culture places a high premium on electronic images. People who view someone on the silver screen or on television somehow can accurately discern that person’s character and inner being. If they approve of what they see, they develop an emotional tie with that person. Reagan and his handlers understood this, and it gave them an enormous advantage over his Democratic opponents, who saw him only as a “B” grade movie actor. In 1984, Lesley Stahl provided CBS television with a four-minute pictorial story about how Reagan visited institutions for the handicapped and old age homes, while simultaneously slashing the funding of programs for these people. Knowing that the pictures were worth far more than her commentary, the White House handlers thanked CBS for the favorable publicity.

Reagan began his campaign in Mississippi, defending states rights in language whites understood as being very critical of the civil rights revolution. While Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford courted the black middle class, Reagan went even farther than Nixon in wooing white conservatives and deliberately cut their ties to the African American middle class. As Michael Dawson of Harvard recalled, “Black elites were shocked to find that with Reagan and his advisers, there were no longer ‘good Negroes’ and ‘bad Negroes.’” Reagan’s hostility to the civil rights revolution also played well among white workers in the North. The Democrats had failed to win new voters or retain many old supporters with their ideas, while Reagan offered alternatives that won over some former Democrats.

In 1980, the Democrats lost many seats in the House and saw more than a few liberals support to liberal Republican John Anderson, who ran for the presidency in as an independent. Moderate Republicans who were uncomfortable in a party dominated by conservatives fueled the Anderson candidacy. By then, their numbers in Congress had dwindled to between fifteen and twenty “Gypsy Moths,” who fed off the leaves of the Republican tree but frequently voted with the Democrats. The Republican Senate victory was largely due to the organizational efforts of Terry Dolan’s National Conservative Political Action Committee. It had spent $4.5 million, $1.2 million of which went to purging liberal senators.

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!