Obama's false Reagan analogy

I think Obama's comments about Reagan, both past and present, are interesting.

Reagan "transformed" politics in some ways but people seem to forget the context behind the 80's.


First, the US was fighting the cold war. It's a lot easier for opponents to rally around the president during times of war. There's no war for Obama to use to "rally" the moderates this time around. And the closest thing to a war, Iraq, does Obama no good. Either you want the troops to stay so you refuse to vote for Obama or you want the troops to come home in which case Obama does not stand out this issue. Sure he was against it all along, but "I was right" doesn't really get you very much traction particularly among so many people that were wrong. In many ways national security issues harm Obama, because many people, dem and rep, who do believe national security is important are much more likely to want an experienced candidate.

Second, Reagan was forced to deal with a democrat controlled congress. He had to appeal to the other party in order to get his agenda through. If Reagan had the opportunity to steam roll through a complete 100% full court press conservative mandate with a completely conservative congress he would have in a heart beat. Reagan did push through a lot of conservative policies but that leads us to the next point...

Third, and most importantly A LOT OF DEMOCRATS DURING THE EIGHTIES WERE VERY CONSERVATIVE. Thus it was easy for an appealing personality like  Reagan to lure them to his side. Reagan used issues that would become famous in "Whats the Matter with Kansas" to appeal to specific blocs of democratic voters. Anti-Abortion,tough on crime stances, Strong on National security,etc. Obama just doesn't enough bipartisian issues to attract large swaths of Republican voters. He has change, sure, but everyone offers change. And while plaiying nice and unifying might be appealing to democrats, trust me, its not appealing to most republicans. We're not wired the same.

Furthermore, Reagan democrats in office were more likely to support these conservative issues too. (Think of a bunch of John Murtha's) There's just not enough moderate republicans in office anymore. Republicans don't get elected by being moderates. And the few "moderates" that exist vote with us on the isses they're going to agree with us on anyways.

With a democratically controlled congress what democrats need is a "Progressive Revolution", similar to the Republican revolution during the mid 90's. We need to create a platform, mixed with progressive policies and progressive policies that have appeal to certain conservatives, so the democratic party AS A WHOLE, can say if you vote for our candidates in November, whether it be the president, your congressman, or your Senator, this is what you will get.

Tags: 2008, clinton, hope, obama, Primary, Reagan, transformative, unity (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

So should we go with the Clinton "transformation" instead?

What happened during the 8 years Bill was in the White House?

Triangulation

Using welfare reform to attack poor people for political gain

Dick Morris

Losing the Democratic congressional majorities in 94

"Triangulation"

The list goes on...

If you're counting on Hillary to lead a "Progressive Revolution" you'll be sorely disappointed -- it will be more of the same - flag burning amendments, stupid wars, Wall Street economics instead of looking out for working people

Obama can transform politics by helping to bring permanently into the Democratic fold groups of voters who we desperately need -- a generation of young voters, the suburban/white collar voters who have grown disenchanted with the Republicans and have been trending Democratic -- and help rebuild the kind of progressive majority we haven't had in decades, and that Clinton will never be able to put together.

by lifelongdem 2008-01-24 06:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

I certainly wouldn't make Hillary my first choice to lead a progressive revolution, but I think what you're missing is that the progressive opportunity we have this year simply was not present in 1992.  It's not like, you know, we could have been this liberal fantasyland if only Bill Clinton hadn't screwed it up.  What happened from 1993-1994, and what we have a chance to do this year, are more a product of the times than anything else.  In fact, I think Obama said exactly that in his interview.

by Steve M 2008-01-24 06:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

It's funny that people complain about triangulation but then agree with Reagan's politics. What do you think Reagan did? He took ideas that some blocs in his party agreed with and some blocs of the democratic party agreed with and ran with it.

Clinton did the same thing. In fact he used the same Reagan Republicans, or what was left of them, that Reagan did.

by world dictator 2008-01-24 06:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

The difference is that Reagan took conservative, Republican ideas (horrible policies!) and convinced a chunk of Democratic voters to support those ideas and his candidacy. In doing so, he changed not just the political math of the country, but also pulled the political dialogue significantly to the right. He never sold out his conservative base, and that is why the conservatives are still falling over each other to be the next Reagan. He never triangulated his Republican base against the Democrats to his personal political advantage -- he consolidated his conservative support and then reached out beyond it to win tough political battles. Reagan articulated a rightwing message, but he did it in a  hopeful tone and offered a vision for the country -- and bad as his actual policies were, he connected to the American people in a way that many believed his vision. (And, of course, he also played some brilliantly divisive and ugly racial and cultural politics to pry a lot of working class ancesteral Democrats inmto his coalition.

Clinton took a bunch of Republican ideas and incorporated them into his policies, and then played them against the Democratic base -- that was triangulation, he painted himself as the opponent of those crazy left wing Democratic ideas and himself as the centrist. (This was especially true after he failed in his initial attempts to do big things like health care, gays in the military, etc). He did not offer a large vision for America, he offered a series of targeted policy proposals designed to win support from micro-sectors of the country. His state of the union addresses were often little more than shopping lists of prgrams & proposals of micro-targeted ideas (school uniforms anyone?)

It certainly worked in terms of getting him elected and re-elected (although never with a majority of the vote -- thanks Ross Perot!), but it certainly wasn't transformational politics in any meaningful way. And while it may have repositioned the Democratic party with a more "centrist" image, but it did not create the organizational or ideological basis for future "progressive" wins. In the end, it was all about Clinton, not about anything bigger.

Bill Clinton was a good prez in many ways -- economic prosperity, no stupid foreign wars, etc He was (and is) a brilliant campaigner and strategist. But in the end, it was a story of 8 years of missed opportunities and an opportunistic style of governing -- and whatever that is, it is not transformational.

by lifelongdem 2008-01-24 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

The difference is that Reagan took conservative, Republican ideas (horrible policies!) and convinced a chunk of Democratic voters to support those ideas and his candidacy.

Two problems with this

1.Outwardly aggressive national security policies were not mainstream conservative ideas. During the early 80's the neoconservative movement was still in its infancy and most conservatives were against it.

Also, high deficit spending to this day still isn't a mainstream conservative stance, though Bush is turning it into one. Engaging in high deficit spending while cutting taxes was definetely not a mainstream idea. This is why the phrase "voodoo economics" was so popular when Bush called out Reagan.

2. This argument falls into the intial trap that I debunked. People seem to think that Reagan used his charm to hoodwink many democrats to support him. As I pointed out, this was the exact opposite. Reagan found ideas that his particular wing of conservatism, in the vast minority at the time, agreed with certain blocs of democrats on. These democrats were already pro life, pro gun,anti soviets. Reagan didn't convince them of anything except that he shared common stances on issues they deemed important.

by world dictator 2008-01-24 09:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

In regard to your points-

#1 -- You're right, Reagan's ideas didn't represent the "mainstream conservative" ideras -- it was the triumph of the new Republican coalition against the old main stream coalition. Mainstream conservatives lost the war for control of the Republican party.

Outwardly aggressive national security policies were the domain of the right wing of the Republican party since Goldwater in 1964. Reagan's nomination in 1980 (and near defeat of Ford in 1976 based on the Panama Canal, etc)  represented their ascendancy and the domination of the party by that wing. Reagan rode that wave to some degree, but he also

Dismissing Reagan's economic policies as "voodoo economics" didn't win George Bush (SR) the Republican nomination in 1980... Reagan creamed him. The Laffer supply siders were (are) nuts, but the rightwing talking points of "its your money, government is the enemy, cut taxes to make the economy work"  became a rallying cry that reshaped out political dynamic and economy policy. It was far outside the old small businessman/ farmer/ etc Republican economy view that had prevailed before, and represented the ascendency of the west and south, and the victory of an economically populist rightwing message.

2. I've got a slightly different interpretation than you do on this -- you're right that Reagan used a variety of right wing issues to peel away parts of the Democratic coalition -- but I think it went well beyond simply selective issue appeal -- these issues became part of a larger message that Reagan and his gang brilliantly used -- they painted the Dems as being culturally out of touch with the values of the average American, the tool of special interests, etc. He incorporated those specific
issues into a  story that he shared their values and vision for America. To that end, the Reagan and the rightwing used these issues to pry Democrats away -- the "wedge" issues that shook people away from their families' Democratic heritage. But it worked in a bigger way not because these "Reagan Democrats" were a set of single issue voters, but because he convinced them that this was symbolic of a Democratic party that was out of touch. (And this positive part of the message was accompanied by a lot of fear based politics as well -- fear of blacks, gays, drugs, hippies, intellectuals, immigrants, communists, etc)

I don't think we're actually very far apart on our interpretations of Reagan's success - although I suspect we differ in or interpretations of what it means in terms of making sense of the Clinton presidency or the 2008 race.

by lifelongdem 2008-01-24 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

#3 is the key point.  This was a major thesis of Paul Krugman's latest book.  There's certainly a few reasonable Republicans you can pick off on an issue here or an issue there, but overall you simply don't have a significant bloc of Republicans who will be willing to join a majority coalition.  You may be able to get them to respond to fear, but they're certainly not going to join just because progressive proposals match the ideology that's secretly in their heart.

by Steve M 2008-01-24 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

"Obama just doesn't enough [sic] bipartisian issues to attract large swaths of Republican voters."

OK, so now we're back to the "Obama isn't conservative enough" narrative?  I thought the "Obama is too conservative" narrative was going quite nicely.

by the mollusk 2008-01-24 06:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

Nobody was claiming that Obama was a conservative. He was being critisized for using right wing talking points against democrats. The use of right wing talking points doesn't make you conservative.

For example, when Obama attacks Edwards and Clinton because they have mandates or using social security right wing talking points, that doesn't mean he wants to use Giuliani's health care plan or privatize social security.

by world dictator 2008-01-24 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

I don't mean to sound flip, but that sounds like a distinction without a difference.  What else do you have to go on but someone's talking points?  Plus the whole point of your writing this diary is to, once again, make it seem like Obama was saying that he wanted to be like Ronald Reagan.

I know it isn't entirely fair to hold you accountable for what other people say on this site, but there is this interesting split between people who say (or imply) that Obama is too conservative and those who say (or imply) that Obama is too liberal.

Sometimes you can tell the strength of an idea (or in this case a candidate) by the contradictory nature of the arguments made against it.

by the mollusk 2008-01-24 06:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

Can I volunteer to have it both ways?

I think Obama is "too liberal" in the sense that he has some votes in his record that look like easy prey for the Republicans in the GE.

I think Obama is "too conservative" in the sense that he refuses to run on a strongly progressive message where he explains the reasons why Democratic policies are right and Republican policies are wrong.  Instead it's all the unity talk which blurs the distinctions.

In terms of what Obama actually believes in his heart, whether he lines up with me on the issues and shares my basic values as a progressive, I'm pretty confident he does.

by Steve M 2008-01-24 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

Two things


I don't mean to sound flip, but that sounds like a distinction without a difference.  What else do you have to go on but someone's talking points?

The policies they propose... I'm not sure why you can't wrap your brain around this fact. When Obama used GOP talking points on social security, something he was blasted for around here, it didn't mean he was advocating for privatizing social security.

Plus the whole point of your writing this diary is to, once again, make it seem like Obama was saying that he wanted to be like Ronald Reagan.

No offense but did you even read this diary? That's not what this diary is about whatsoever. I never mentioned anything about Obama supporting Reagan ideas.

The point I DID MAKE was that Obama's argument that he can transform,transcend and unite the country like Reagan, something Obama has repeated claimed, is a false analogy. Obama believes that we are in a moment in history similar to when Reagan ran for office, my argument is that we're not in a similar point in history.

by world dictator 2008-01-24 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

But, look, you're saying that "Obama is not conservative, but he uses conservative talking points."  And you cite Social Security as an example.  I know he was chastised for saying that Social Security was in crisis, but this is what people think (outside of a few policy wonks who believe this to be false).  In my opinion, this is not qualitatively different than telling people you'll keep them safe from terrorism.  Many more people die from the flu and from intestinal parasites than die from terrorism, but people don't want to hear your plans to fight diarrhea.  This is called political discourse.  Candidates can only be "so honest" and they craft messages that reach the largest number of people.  This is what Obama did with Social Security.  Maybe Social Security is fine, but if people don't believe this, it's pissing in the wind to try to sell it to them in a campaign.

So this brings us back to the Reagan comment.  Obama says Reagan transformed the nation and that we need some sort of equivalent transformation today.  The only glitch in that statement is that he uses Reagan as an example.  But, really, what other modern figure has transformed the country in a similar way?  I suppose Nixon transformed the country, but he's too toxic.  Then you're going back to LBJ and FDR.  These are 40 and 60 year-old examples.  They just don't speak to people the way mentioning Reagan does.  I guarantee you if Obama had used FDR as an example, those words would be completely silent by now.  And that was the whole point of using Reagan in the first place.  To get people listening.

Alright, I have to get back to work.

by the mollusk 2008-01-24 07:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's false Reagan analogy

You have yet to respond to anything that I've said. I mean you're not even coming close. Look Obama said Reagan transformed the country and united the parties. I said Reagan didn't transform the country and united the parties in a way Obama will not be able to. Simple as that. Unless you have some argument against my comments about situation during the Reagan administration or now, you're just arguing  by yourself.

by world dictator 2008-01-24 08:26AM | 0 recs
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