Reagan's Gone, But The N.Y. Times Still Finds Reagan-Blame in Berkeley

In the New York Times, a Sunday story from Berkeley, California on the closing of a legendary local bookstore carries a surprisingly old refrain. Reporter Jesse McKinley found that some leftists are still blaming Ronald Reagan for the business slump on Berkeley's main drag, Telegraph Avenue, right there in the first paragraph:

Depending on whom you ask, the reason Cody's Books is going out of business is either because of the City of Berkeley, the homeless, the University of California, the war in Iraq, Ronald Reagan, the Internet or the lack of short-term parking.

Reagan? Even now, after his death? Blaming Reagan for every negative social event was common liberal-media sport in the 1980s and 1990s, slowing a bit with the onset of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. McKinley comes back around to the Reagan-bashing arguments at the story's end:

But as much as things may have changed along Berkeley's main street, the song often remains the same, including its denizens' penchant for finding larger plots (and often larger conservative plots) in local affairs.

Take Steven David Lewis (a k a Screwy Lewie), a longtime Berkeley resident and guitar player who busks in front of Cody's. A Vietnam veteran, Mr. Lewis lays the blame for the store's closing on Ronald Reagan (for adding to the homeless problem) and the current President Bush.

"The war in Iraq is sapping all the little economies across the country, and Cody's was hit by that, too," Mr. Lewis said. "It's sad. This corner was part of the Free Speech Movement. I just hope they don't take that away, too."

In between, McKinley reports that even liberals can age and grow in distaste for the blooming flowers of hippie culture:

Indeed, just days after Cody's announced that it would close on July 10, the city hurriedly put together a supplementary budget package to pay for more police, a mental health worker and a general cleanup campaign for the strip.

"I think it was a shock that an institution like Cody's was closing," Mr. Bates said. "But as terrible and horrible as it is, I think it gives us the impetus to make these changes."

Part of Telegraph's appeal has always been its mix of freedom and unpredictable grit, and much of that spirit is still in evidence, with the homeless with worn eyes and dingy bedrolls regularly begging for change. In front of Cody's, some locals openly drink and smoke what is more than likely marijuana in the middle of the day.

But even in this famously liberal enclave, locals say that sort of behavior gets tired fast.

New York Times History
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