Michael O’Donnell is eager to push back against the belief that Reagan ranks with Franklin Roosevelt as a great 20th-century president. In his review of H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life in the Washington Monthly’s June/July/August issue, O’Donnell wrote that “Roosevelt saved the nation from an existential threat (the Great Depression), while Reagan merely steered it out of a funk (the 1970s). Roosevelt enacted structural reforms to protect the most vulnerable members of society, [whereas] Reagan systematically set about dismantling those reforms.”
Moreover, argued O’Donnell, Reagan influenced today’s politics for the worse. O’Donnell calls him “the author of many of our current predicaments as a nation and a society…The government-is-the-enemy mind-set that pervades the right today comes to us from Barry Goldwater via Ronald Reagan. As our roads, bridges, and schools fall apart around us, we have them to thank.”
America no longer has a two-party system, argued Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman in a Friday post. That’s because the Republican party is essentially “defunct,” having been sucked into a “vortex of stupid” (i.e., taken over by right-wingers).
“The architects of this vortex,” wrote Longman, “are as varied as Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales and Regent University jurisprudence, neoconservative foreign policy, the mighty right-wing media wurlitzer, the campaign finance laws, the lack of any accountability for anything ever, the things defending torture does to the human spirit and the brain, the folks who will pay any price to keep science from interfering with their bottom line, what happens when you have to lower your standards to make Ed Meese and Sarah Palin acceptable.”
Monday was a big day for journalists to suggest similarities between mass murderers and Republicans. Newsweek writer Nina Burleigh claimed that certain of Timothy McVeigh’s “militia ideals have gone mainstream” in the GOP, but Esquire's Pierce really put the ideological pedal to the metal when he likened Dick Cheney to one of the all-time worst genocidal maniacs, opining that Cheney’s relatively high current political profile is akin to “giving Pol Pot a late-night TV gig.” (As a lead-in, Pierce also called Cheney “the most inexcusable American who ever lived.”)
Pierce’s item piggybacked on a Washington Monthly post by Ed Kilgore, whose tone toward Cheney was not much less harsh than Pierce’s. After quoting Reince Priebus’s remark that Cheney is “a top fundraising draw, in high demand,” Kilgore sniped, “I suppose this is an example of what the church calls the ‘glamor of evil’ in the Easter baptismal renewal vows."
When did Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president of the United States end? Officially, on January 20, 1989, but Washington Monthly blogger D. R. Tucker posits that in a sense Reagan stayed in office well after that. In a Saturday post, Tucker asserted that in 1988, some right-wing “ideologues” sought to “artificially extend the Reagan administration past its constitutionally limited time by propping up a man who would defend and attack the same ideas and politicians Reagan defended.” That man-prop was Rush Limbaugh.
“Reaganism shifted wealth upwards…and the folks behind the Limbaugh project didn’t want the gravy train to end,” wrote Tucker. “What better way to keep the good times going than by hiring Limbaugh to promote Reaganism into the 1990s and beyond, while rhetorically butchering anyone who disagreed with the 40th president’s wayward economic policies? Limbaugh was simply the vagrant recruited to distract the cops while the thieves looted the bank.”
A new Pew Research study found that between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of Americans self-identifying as Christian fell from 78.4 to 70.6. In a Tuesday post, Martin Longman speculated about causes for the dropoff, commenting that “the Republican Party’s embrace of a very conservative interpretation of Christianity” may be “undermining people’s faith.”
Longman added that it’s not solely the fault of the domestic religious right: “Islamic radicals…committing unspeakable atrocities in Allah’s name” and “Jewish radicals…standing in the way of [Israeli-Palestinian] peace negotiations” share the blame. “Most of the war and killing that is going on in the world today is generated by disputes between or within a small handful of very well-established traditional religions,” he remarked. “If the whole world woke up tomorrow with no memory of the New Testament, the Torah, or the Koran, it’s quite possible that peace would break out in ways that seem unthinkable today.”
New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait claims that for today’s GOP, “everything Reagan thought or did was presumptively correct, even the things that contradict the other things he did.” Specifically, “the Reagan cult is largely (though not entirely) a propaganda vehicle for the anti-tax movement,” even though “in reality, Reagan veered wildly out of step with anti-tax orthodoxy.” The Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore thinks the Cult of Reagan has been strengthened by its de facto alliance with a newer movement, the Tea Party.
Veteran journalist Steven Waldman, a former Washington correspondent for Newsweek and a senior adviser to the Federal Communications Commission for two years during Obama’s first term, argues that an Obama nomination would be “good for [Hillary], and very good for progressives. Would he want it? It’s possible he’d view it as too confining, but it may be the only job a former president can get that won’t seem like a step down.”
For the University of Chicago’s Harold Pollack, this past weekend’s commemoration yielded a “fairly astonishing” juxtaposition of President Obama’s “largeness of spirit” and Republican apathy, or worse. In a Washington Monthly blog post, Pollack argued that the low GOP turnout for “an event sacred to African-Americans sent an unavoidable message: These are not our people...Such discomfort with a widening circle of ‘others’ still works for many in the congressional GOP, especially in non-presidential years. On a national level, it is increasingly out of step with a changing society.”
The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman argues that Republican base voters routinely wind up hurting the party’s center-right presidential nominee because he feels he has to throw them one or more bones: “Poppy [George H. W. Bush] didn’t really need to promise no new taxes, but it was a broken promise that cost him dearly. [John] McCain overcompensated for his weakness with the base by giving us Sarah Palin. And, in his contorted efforts to speak to a base that had become completely unmoored from terrestrial reality, [Mitt] Romney set the land-speed record for lying by a human being.”
Bush seems not to share what Ed Kilgore calls the “vengeful rage about the alleged persecution of good conservative Christian folk” and what Peter Beinart describes as “the sense of Christian victimhood and superiority that lurks just below the surface in today’s GOP.”
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones claims that Obama’s executive action was meant to “gain Latino support for Democrats and provoke an insane counterreaction from Republicans” and concludes that Obama “succeeded brilliantly on both counts.” Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly notes that “the Republican Party was actually competitive among Latino voters a decade ago,” but adds, “Now that it’s obvious the party has chosen to…bow to the nativist impulses of the conservative ‘base,’ the question is how much worse can it get?”
Ed Kilgore comments that Walker may have an “especially seductive” appeal to the Republican base given that “he won over and over again in Wisconsin without compromising with conservatism’s enemies. Indeed, he behaved almost like a liberal caricature of a conservative villain…Walker tells [right-wingers that] they…can win by confrontation, not compromise or outreach, and his three victories are the proof.”