How is it that Ronald Reagan became the Republican's Franklin Roosevelt. I'll concede Reagan his reputation as a speechifier & phrasemaker, & that the nation needed someone more cheery than Jimmy Carter. But Reagan the President wasn't nearly Reagan the Ideologist. Ronald Reagan enjoyed being President too much, & was too smart to push a far right conservative agenda the vast majority of Americans didn't want & hadn't elected him to do. He was elected to lift the spirit of post-Vietnam malaise, & this he did, & he did it mainly through speeches & launching a thousand ships that had nothing to do. I rather enjoyed seeing those old strategically useless battleships come out of mothballs: Reagan's Navy. No more Pearl Harbors for him. He took a wartime President's conviction that an "enemy" also has to be outspent into economic collapse: the Soviet Union had been tottering in that direction since the early Sixties. He funded oppressive right wing governments & insurgencies & conquered Grenada. He was FDR writ small.
Uber-conservatives of course say Reagan is the Father of the Conservative Resurgence. To which I say yes, but what is that? The establishment of an invasive National Security State? Democrats were equally complicit in it. Selling the government to big corporations & banks? Yup, Democrats were in on that too. Rolling back abortion rights? Some real success there. But since Reagan the score is this: Republican Presidents: 12 years, both named Bush. Democratic Presidents: 16 years, one of them African-American, & if it hadn't been him she would have been a second Clinton. Opposition to marriage equality - remember, this has been a central issue for Repugs, their symbol of the Moral Collapse of Western Civilization - a Big Fail. The dominos fell against it for a few years, but they were patiently set up again & knocked in other direction.
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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson