Reagan Worship?

So Senator Obama has generated some heat by making the following remarks:

I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.

(I’m quoting them from here.)

And a tempest has blown up in the Democratic party by some progressives that Obama should be shunned for having “praised” Reagan. Of course if you read the remarks, he didn’t actually do that. He did point out that Reagan was transformational — that the Reagan presidency moved the political stance of the country in a way that, say, the Clinton presidency did not. This statement is far from praise. It’s a recognition of fact. The proof is below the fold.


You know what the strongest indicator is that Sen. Obama’s observation was right? That everyone’s piling on him for having said it.

As a quick example, take the following comment posted on firedoglake, ironically intended to show we should pillory Sen. Obama:

Dems have been out of power so long, even they forget what ‘centrist’ means. Right now, the center of the Democratic party is closer to what the center of the Republican party was in the 1970s. Run and govern as a damn liberal already!

Someone earlier had said,

Yea, Jane!!! We are the agents that drag the Overton Window to the Left!!!

And all I can say, it’s about damn time!!!

without noticing, apparently, the fact that shifting the Overton Window was in fact what Sen. Obama was talking about — clearly, Reagan was more successful at this than Clinton, if only because two decades later we are still bemoaning that “the center of the Democratic party is closer to what the center of the Republican party was in the 1970s” even after Clinton’s eight years.

I don’t know why so many people seem to be missing the point. Perhaps it’s because Reagan was transformative, and now he’s become the bogeyman of the progressive movement. People apparently can’t be rational about him anymore. I am not yet an Obama supporter but this “controversy” is pushing me that way, because it highlights that he seems to be the only one who will speak to us as if we’re not stupid — as if, being adults, we can understand nuance and thus accept uncomfortable truths, such as that a president can be very effective in effecting change even if the changes he effects are bad ones. (Of course, the rabid sputtering on Obama’s left flank provided evidence that, no, the American electorate is in fact as stupid as everyone complains.)

I understand the need for mythmaking and crafting a progressive narrative to combat the conservative one. But aren’t we supposed to be the party of the reality-based community?

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