The core of Wilentz's case is that Reagan fundamentally re-shaped the political discussion in this country in ways that lasted for decades - at least until the present day. He also notes that Reagan successfully co-opted the cheery optimism of the New Deal and New Frontier, and that Reagan wasn't quite as ideological as people sometimes believe.
I will concede that much of Wilentz says is true - Reagan has been extraordinarily influential. But to draw from this conclusion that we accept or facilitate Reagan's rehabilitation is another matter entirely. Reagan was influential, but that influence was almost entirely a negative one. The gigantic deficits and gruesome cuts to social services, the redistributions of wealth towards those least deserving of it, are Reagan's most obvious contributions. However, his real menace is that he unleashed and encouraged truly dangerous habits of mind in the American citizenry. Reagan's very "optimism" was was a potion of reflexive chauvinism and bizarre Potemkin politics. His chief accomplishment was to give social acceptability to the forces of evil in American life.
Reagan's disavowal of facts, his validation of ethnic and religious claims to superiority, his deliberate exclusion of roughly half the population from the acknowledged polity, his disrespect for the Constitution, his damaging propagation that we are, fundamentally, on our own - these are all trends that reached their apogee in the present administration. Bush's subordination of reality to fantasy and ideology is not a perversion of Reaganism but simply Reaganism. Bush did more damage because he didn't have the check of a Democratic Congress, not because he was somehow more pragmatic than Reagan.
At last we appear to be on the verge of burying one of the most pernicious political movements in American history. Let's not give it new life with the harebrained and self-destructive hagiography of a dead villain, shall we? Genghis Khan was influential too, and I don't see a lot of people defending his reputation.
And let's not forget his wife, Balloon Head!By Seeking Solace, at 1:23 PM
Regan truly was evil. It floors me when I hear the entire clamor to name airports and other stuff after him. W is truly a disciple of the Regan phenomenon.
My husband was at the Bruce Springsteen concert back in '83 where Springsteen mocked Regan for mentioning him in a speech. The famous quote is "I guess he (Regan) never heard the Nebraska album."
I cracked up when they changed the name of Washington National Airport to the Reagan airport. I actually heard Republicans say that the airport "should be named after a President." Ha! What a bunch of goons.By Arbitrista, at 1:39 PM