Friday, March 26, 2010

The End of the Age of Reagan

Reagan has been an occasional reference during the healthcare debate. Conservatives flooded Youtube with his attacks on socialised medicine from the early sixties. Democrats, in using reconciliation to push through the bill, turned to a tactic first tried by Republicans to realise Reagan's early tax and spending cuts.

Now that Obama's healthcare reform has become law, the word is that the Age of Reagan is over. David Leonhardt describes the Reagan era as three decades of rising wealth inequality, and the healthcare bill the first piece of legislation that reverts the trajectory Reagan pursued. Rush Limbaugh despairs at the Age's passing:

In the early eighties I earned less than I ever had in my life and I still loved Ronald Reagan and I still loved what was going on. Americans loved their country. We had come off of four years of utter disaster called Jimmy Carter, and we now have Jimmy Carter's second term, only worse. Carter was a bumbling idiot but I don't think he really despised the country. We're being led by people that don't like this country or at least they've been raised not to like it.

At Hot Air, J.E. Dyer challenges Leonhardt's definition of the Reagan era, arguing that the trends he points to stem from the regulatory legislation of the 1970s.

Meanwhile, a dual image of Reagan has been evoked in the New York Times in response to the anger of the Tea Party. Timothy Egan cannot imagine the Gipper amongst the protestors or engaging in the frantic, aggressive rhetoric of the GOP: "Reagan was all about sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie. In him, the American people saw their better half." Paul Krugman disagrees: "For today’s G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan — not Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare would destroy American freedom."

The Age of Reagan might persevere as long as it is understood as a movement of resistance, as long as he is seen as a figure of opposition, rather than government.

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