|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
“”A useful heuristic: Be very suspicious of anyone who is firmly entrenched in power but rails against 'elites.'
Reaganism was a political perspective in the United States based on a friendly-seeming, grandfatherly-type ex-actor telling us that government could do no good, and then proceeding to become the head of the executive branch of the United States government, drastically expanding the public debt as he saw fit. Why anyone believed it is beyond us.
Prominent lies promoted by Mr. Reagan include:
- The "free market" is always more efficient than the government at providing solutions to problems. (See universal health care)
- The "government" is incapable of solving a country's problems (See Hurricane Katrina)
- Some woman somewhere on welfare had a Cadillac and a color TV. (He made this up)
- Hardworking blue collar Americans should hate suffering poor Americans for eating their tax dollars instead of working their asses off for giant corporations themselves. (See trade union)
- The "rich" are a beleaguered and overtaxed suffering demographic. (Who pay well for political campaigns!)
This strategy goes way back, originating with Candidate Nixon (who ran against Reagan in the '69 Republican race). He won the nomination by running as an outsider, refusing to make any pledges or cut any deals; the day after the 29th Republican Convention, he exposed the deal he made with the southerners to ensure their support in the general election: the appointment of Spiro Agnew as Veep. Agnew was knighted by the southern delegation after he behaved boorishly to the blacks of Baltimore that spring.
In his speech, Nixon condemned LBJ's welfare state, Social Security, and activist judges who supported integrated schools. (As POTUS, Nixon concured with Goldwater that the Supreme Court was "not, necessarily, the law of the land", though in a slightly different way than Barry probably intended.) Infamously, he split hairs on the subject of Vietnam withdrawal. Five months earlier, he said, "There is no alternative to the continuation of the war"; now he was suddenly talking like a peace candidate, insisting that "the time [had] come for negotiation"; but in case that sounded like appeasement, he quickly reminded everybody that it was "time we started to act like a great nation," whatever that meant. Gore Vidal, who covered the RNC that year, reported with awe:
“”"He just had to say that," murmur his supporters whenever he contradicts himself, and they admire him for it. After all, his form of hypocrisy is deeply American...In short, there is no new Nixon, only the old Nixon experimenting with new campaigning techniques in response, as the Stalinists used to say, to new necessities.
|—The New York Review of Books, 9.12.68|
Part of the reason why Reaganism persists, apart from the fact it works (Nixon was re-elected, as was Reagan and Bush Jr.), is that most of the hacks in his cabinet were awarded positions in later Republican administrations. With Nixon, he initially seemed like a safe bet. He was a "local boy done good", scandal-free, with an impressive track record in getting votes. But then it turned out he’s nuts, too: He nearly brought down the republic, provoked a constitutional crisis and flirted with dictatorship.
The GOP was determined not to make the same mistake again. They picked a retired actor and General Electric spokesman who could convincingly deliver a speech (even if he vomited nonsense whenever the teleprompter was switched off). Reagan capped his 1988 farewell speech with the classic line, "man is not free unless government is limited." That quote is still a rallying cry for conservatives, but the speech followed eight years of government expansion: not only did the federal workforce double under Reagan, the national debt was tripled.
Bush II fits the bill because he is an imperious, incurious, pseudo-cowboy idiot, with a profound need not to know, and as such he was easily bamboozled by Cheney, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, Rove, Rice, Kristol, Feith, and several others. More government overreach and debt ensued.
 Today's usage
Today's Republicans reflexively use this strategy all the time. In fact, the entire field of GOP 2016 candidates for President (minus Kasich) are entirely absent of ideas, instead expressing a wish to dismantle or repeal this or that; or in Trump's case, bald-faced lies and pie-in-the-sky promises that not even a two-term President could back up in reality, much less a newcomer with zero political capital. You must admit that he's getting some serious mileage out of essentially yelling, "It'll be so good, your head will spin", "I'm smart", I'm rich," and "I'm Donald fucking Trump". They're all sizzle and no steak — just the type that incurious, low-information Tea Partiers and Libertarians will vote for.
In Britain, there was a very similar political movement referred to as "Thatcherism," named for the Iron Lady who advocated the same principles. The impact of this was slightly less fun that of the States, and they haven't dared tried it again.
 See also
- ↑ The Mendacity Index, Washington Monthly
- ↑ "Governor Agnew’s Speech to Baltimore’s Black Community Leadership on April 11, 1968".
- ↑ Lippman Jr., Theo, "How the 1968 Riots Made Agnew's Career", The Baltimore Sun 4.5.98.
- ↑ Nixon Accepts The Republican Party Nomination for President, 1968 RNC.
- ↑ Dean, John W., "Son of Nixon", Daily Beast 1.7.09.
- ↑ Corn, David, "Nixon on Tape: Reagan Was 'Shallow' and of 'Limited Mental Capacity'", Mother Jones 11.15.02. Kissinger: He's shallow. He's got no—he's an actor. When he gets a line he does it very well. He said, 'Hell, people are remembered not for what they do, but for what they say. Can't you find a few good lines?' [Chuckles.] That's really an actor's approach to foreign policy."
- ↑ Park, Alex, "These Charts Show How Ronald Reagan Actually Expanded the Federal Government", Mother Jones 12.20.14
- ↑ Joy Gray, Kalli, "George W. Bush Real Glad He Won Iraq War, Misses Commander Guy Cosplay", Wonkette 6.15.15.
- ↑ Baker Peter, "The Final Insult in the Bush-Cheney Marriage", New York Times 10.10.13.
- ↑ Josh Roglin and Eli Lake, "CIA Torture Report: Bush Was Kept in the Dark for Years", Bloomberg 9.9.14.
- ↑ Bouie, Jamelle, "Fool Me Once", Slate 6.6.14. Bouie: "If we lived in a reasonable world, [Douglas] Feith would be barred from talking on the subject of Iraq. As it stands, he’s making the rounds of commentary."
- ↑ Gillespie, Nick, "Bush Was a Big-Government Disaster", Reason 1.6.09.
- ↑ Deb, "Inside a Donald Trump Rally", CBS (1/20/16 6:00 AM)
- ↑ Taibbi, Matt, "Mad Dog Palin", originally posted in Rolling Stone 9/26/08. Taibbi: "You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt...pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore. And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket."
- ↑ Luhby, Tami, "Bernie Sanders Kept Waiting For GOP to Talk About the Middle Class", CNN (9/18/15 8:27am EST).
- ↑ Tanenhaus, Sam, "The GOP Is Campaigning for George W. Bush’s Third Term", Bloomberg 5.19.15.
- ↑ "'GOP Economic Debate Offers Next to Nothing for Working- and Middle-Class Americans" Alternet (11/10/15)
- ↑ Joy Gray, Kalli, "PolitiFact 'Lie Of The Year' Is Every Single Word Out Of Donald Trump’s Face Hole", Wonkette (12/22/15 10:15am EST).
- ↑ Magary, Drew, "What Kind of Person Would Vote For Donald Trump? These People", GQ (8.4.15 6:00am EST).