"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 3

Ronald Reagan was aptly called “The Great Communicator.” With his affable, easy-going, likeable demeanor, he was the perfect person to sell hope and market economics. He had unparalleled talent as a visionary leader, seizing the public imagination with broad brush pictures of big themes, most rooted in traditional values. Since his days as spokesman for General Electric, he had been doing so. Even before running for governor of California, his handlers had taught him how to get around difficult topics and avoid revealing his lack of understanding about important matters. The public grasped that he was not good with details but sensed his sincerity. He represented the kind of hope people had before the fifties, to which many desperately wanted to return. Reagan promised to balance the budget by 1984, to restore prayer in the schools, end abortions, downsize government, establish free trade, and restore vigor to the Detroit automobile industry. He was unable to deliver on most of these promises, but the voters still considered him a great success. Superb public relations managers improved on Reagan’s natural talents to the point that even his failures came to appear as triumphs. Alexander Haig was to complain that they ran policy, and political operative Lee Atwater said, “I can’t think of a single meeting I was at for more than an hour when someone didn’t say, ‘How will this play in the media?’”

Reagan received very favorable coverage from the press because he was personally likeable and because media executives knew the public would not accept much criticism of this popular president. CBS management ordered its Washington Bureau and Lesley Stahl to tone down coverage of Reagan that could be considered critical because the public would not accept it. Reagan’s favorable press coverage was also due to the reluctance of Democrats to criticize him because he was so popular. The press might have aired Democratic criticisms had there been many.

One of Reagan’s greatest skills was to connect with Americans’ basic optimism. Over time, Americans had moved away from their original belief in original sin and pessimism about the human condition. They wanted to believe that people begin with a clean slate and that America is the place where this happens. The religious awakenings of the Nineteenth Century had moved people toward a much more optimistic mind set. People--at least those who were born again-- he believed to be perfectible and inherently good. William James, America’s most important philosopher, thought our greatest contribution to western thought was the belief that the mind could cure evil and heal the sick soul. He predicted that the belief in mind-cure would “play a part almost as great in the evolution of the popular religion of the future. This mind set prepared the way for the therapeutic culture of the late 20th century. The doctrine of the market required only strong belief, and it would work its magic in the same way that people could rely upon the good hearts and volunteerism of good people to work out social problems. The Democrats had not gotten the faith and were guilty of the great sin of pessimism. Not relying upon the benevolence of the market or redeemed human nature, they looked to government to do what people and natural forces should accomplish.

This sunny optimism and belief in mind-cure laid the foundation for the general acceptance therapeutic culture of the late 20th Century; although, it is doubtful that many psychiatrists would warm to this observation. Similarly, it laid the groundwork for the revival and acceptance of a laissez faire market philosophy that postulated the benevolent workings of natural economic forces. The same optimism and belief in human perfectibility underpinned its companion social philosophy, Social Darwinism. Anyone who put his mind to it can prosper in a society where economic forces are permitted to operate without government interference. Conversely, those unwilling to exert themselves and become productive citizens had no moral claims on society.

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About Me

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!