Daily Kos: Reagan ‘Convinced Americans That Democratic Government Was Un-American’

In the 1960s and ‘70s, it was fairly common for leftists to describe the U.S. as not just misguided or flawed, but sick. On Sunday, Daily Kos’s Mark Sumner trotted out that metaphor when he asserted that President Reagan “introduced [an] infection” to this country, one which caused Americans to believe that “to save our nation, we have to treat our government like a threat.”

Since the Reagan years, Sumner claimed, “conservatism has been more than just an argument about tax rates and regulat[ions]. It's become an open and honest war on the whole idea of governing. By opening a gap between ‘the people’ and ‘the republic,’ the intentional murder of the American government was turned into something that could be supported as ‘patriotism.’"

From Sumner’s piece (bolding added):

…[T]he agenda of the last four decades and counting [is] that to save our nation, we have to treat our government like a threat…

…[T]he nonsense of Reagan's policies were initially obvious to everyone…

…The new conservative economics failed to generate the economic benefits that their supporters predicted. They failed just as everyone who had seriously studied the issue said they would.

And then everyone acted as if they succeeded…Vice President Bush was disputing that he had ever uttered the word "voodoo" in association with The Master's economic thoughts. Very Serious People began to act as if the ludicrous assumptions of Reaganomics were worthy of consideration…

…The media began to repeat Republican memes as if the Laffer Curve were a mathematical rule, and not a fantasy created entirely for PR purposes. Worse still, Democrats began to act as if they had to apologize for supporting democracy.

The reason that conservatives lionize Reagan is not because he heralded the high point of conservative popularity. It's because he made the previously unthinkable commonplace. He introduced the infection...He convinced Americans that democratic government was un-American.

Ever since, conservatism has been more than just an argument about tax rates and regulatory boards. It's become an open and honest war on the whole idea of governing. By opening a gap between "the people" and "the republic," the intentional murder of the American government was turned into something that could be supported as "patriotism."

That's not an entirely new idea, of course. See poll taxes, poll tests, poll...poles. And naturally, see Mr. [Jim] Crow.  What's new in modern conservatism is that, like honey badgers, they just don't care.

When Newt Gingrich led a government shutdown at the end of 1995, the reaction might have been taken as a referendum on the speed of the government's unraveling. Polls continued to show that the public supported progressive positions, and the Republicans had diminished their brand in the shutdown. Instead, Democratic politicians embraced the rhetoric of the Republicans…

Clinton wasn't alone. It wasn't just that Democrats had compromised again and again with positions that enjoyed little popular support. It was that Democrats had adopted the language and the basic proposition of Reagan: government was bad and the proper response to any regulation was to remove it. The idea of "job-killing taxes" or "burdensome regulations" has become so ingrained, that it is treated as if it needs no supporting evidence. Which is very, very good for Republicans, since the evidence doesn't exist.

While Republican economics hasn't functioned to generate either the revenues or jobs that were promised, those same policies have been very effective in crippling the government…

…In the last two midterm cycles, Republicans have discovered anti-government El Dorado. They've found that, having solidly identified themselves as the anti-government party, they can actively work against the government, no matter how openly, and people will pay them to do it…

This, folks, is an end state. A death spiral. A government eating perpetual zombie machine.

This is the Pete Rose problem, the why baseball is horrified about players betting on baseball problem. Republicans have discovered that they can be richly rewarded to throw the game. Which, in any game, is game over.

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