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Speaker of the House John Boehner is learning the enduring truth of Lyndon Johnson’s famous distinction between a cactus and a caucus. In a caucus, said LBJ, all the pricks are on the inside. Presumably Speaker Boehner seldom thinks about his Republican predecessors as leaders of the House.
If it were not for his impeachment on 24 February 1868, and the subsequent trial in the Senate that led to his acquittal, Andrew Johnson would probably reside among the faded nineteenth century presidents that only historical specialists now remember. Succeeding to the White House after the murder of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, Johnson proved to be a presidential failure [...]
Something of a myth of American democracy is that decisions are made in the ballot box by voters on election day. Actually, these outcomes are structured by fundraising efforts by would-be candidates years in advance.
Aspirants to the GOP presidential nomination, now entering the crucial second quarter before election year and on the eve of their formal declarations of candidacies, are now racing for credibility by racing for cash. And those without name recognition, in particular, have to rake in as much as they can before June 30 and the slower summer months begin, so that their second quarter federal disclosure reports do not look so pitiful that their campaigns would end before they even began.
President Barack Obama, for his part, appears on top of his own game. Having quickly declared his candidacy, his campaign manager Jim Messina has already mapped out a plan of getting 400 major donors to raise $350,000 each by the end of the year. By forcing the campaign finance issue so early and so soon on GOP hopefuls, he is already shaping the GOP primary outcome. Even more so than in the typical cycle, Republican primary voters will face pressure to forego a candidate of purer conservative principle with less fund-raising potential such as Rick Santorum in favor of a candidate with more fund-raising potential (or the name-recognition to achieve to same) such as Mitt Romney. Obama’s early campaign kick-off, then, has heightened the GOP’s dilemma between boring but credible candidates, and exciting but unknown candidates — a reason why the party has not already settled on a clear frontrunner the way it had done for every campaign since 1952.
In the House and Senate, both parties understand that elections have to be bought as much as they must be fought. Democrats in both chambers appear to have begun to narrow the “enthusiasm gap” of 2010, and raised a little more money than Republicans in the first quarter of this year in spite of the expectation that donors are typically unenthusiastic in the fundraising cycle which follows their party’s defeat at the polls. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $11.69 million, just slightly more than the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s figure of $11.2 million. A positive sign for Democrats is that the senators holding important swing seats the GOP hopes to re-capture, such as those of Bill Nelson (FL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Sherrod Brown (OH), did well by raising over a $1 million each in the first quarter. But this could merely mean that these senators are gearing up for a tough, and perhaps uphill battle ahead.
Democrats fared better in the House as well, but the numbers again are very close. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $19.6 million, compared to the National Republican Campaign Committee, which raised $18 million. The DCCC is taking comfort in the fact that the average freshman Republican congressman raised less in the first quarter of 2011 than the average freshman Democratic congressman did in the first quarters of 2007 and 2009 – the years after the Democrats had just enjoyed their victories. There were, however, clear winners on the Republican side, and topping that list was Michelle Bachmann, who raised over $2 million in the first quarter. The critical question for the year ahead is whether the Tea-Party’s enthusiasm for Bachmann is portable enough to help other Republican members achieve their fund-raising goals. If the Tea Party proves capable of inspiring cheques as well as it has inspired hearts, the Republican party will have no problem keeping the House and gaining in the Senate next year.
For American politics, look not to the polls; for where the money goes, so goes t
In 2010, the Tea Party movement was out and about. Newly christened and newly outraged, they created the enthusiasm gap that creates victories in an age of evenly split bipolarized politics.
This year, the rage has sizzled out to disgruntled listlessness. Even for those still against Obamacare, the memory of its passage has waned because the promised effects of its eventual implementation will not become evident for a few more years, and the debate about the national debt is either too real (in Medicare) or too esoteric (as in the debt ceiling) for easy populist manipulation.
If Republicans are still waiting for a political novice from a midwestern town to emerge out of nowhere and take the country by storm (i.e. their Obama), then they better wait for the next cycle, because their most talented candidates have already opted to do so. The smart candidates, if they can afford the time, are polishing their CVs for 2016, because they know that whoever it is, incumbent presidents are just hard to beat; plus, they happen to be facing an incumbent president who appears as adept at filling his war-chest as he is at delivering campaign sonnets.
Trump was a fun fantasy, as was Huckabee, and as remains Herman Cain. So many tantalizing options, some sparks of celebrity, and yet no magic, no candidate with the star quality — the je na sais quoi of our era of infotainment politics. It’s not that there is no talent on the Republican side, but that the talented have wisely chosen to withhold their talent for a better shot in the future.
And so all we have on the Republican side right now is the same old. The front-runner, as far as any is visible, is a stiff millionaire with Wall Street credentials with the slick hair to match his slick politics. He was for health-care in Massachusetts before he was against it in Washington. But he does raise a lot of money, so at least he satisfies the bare minimum requirement for what it takes to take on Obama. And that’s it. For all the Right’s talk that Obama is just about the worst president that has ever befallen American (so terrible he’s even been deemed, literally, unAmerican), there is a gaping lacuna in their search for an alternative.
In the era of the permanent campaign, when all elected politicians are already campaigning for their next appearance at the poll, now is rather late in the game that we are not already speculating about the most viable candidates. Granted, the speculations are often wrong, but the point is early speculation is a sign of enthusiasm that helps create a victorious wave for whoever the nominee is later on. The last time there was an incumbent president on the ballot, the Democrats were going gaga over Howard Dean at this time in that cycle. We are well past this point for the 2012 cycle, and yet the Republican Tea Partiers are only just getting over Donald Trump’s flirtatious clownery. Whereas by 2006, the lame-duck George Bush was already being eclipsed by the media’s extended foreplay with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, most eyes remain on the same two characters, even if some are cast in contempt. There still isn’t a newsmaking, paparazzi-feeding figure on the Republican side who also looks credible enough to party apparatchiks. (Sarah Palin fails on the latter criterion), in part because no candidate on the Right has yet mastered the fine art of credible populism — as close as one can come to giving the je na sais quoi of presidential star quality a name in the era of plebiscitary and anti-intellectual politics. The existing range of candidates are sub-par because they are either too stiff or too silly.
All populists are, to some extent, sweet-talking thespians. It cannot be otherwise, because democracy makes the voter sovereign, and sovereigns love flattery. But
Let’s first consider the historical setting, as any writer who wishes to make a decisive introduction to retrospective comparison should consider. In 1773 the English Parliament passed a tea act, taxing colonial merchants; and in doing so outraged the Colonists and united them in opposition. When the first small cargoes of tea consigned to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston were not allowed to be unloaded, it was a shock to England. The tax was to be enforced and paid by midnight of December 16th. The reaction was swift and nonviolent. The English put up no resistance and the ships were not damaged.
The Colonists, disguised as Indians, boarded the tea ships in Boston the night of December 16, 1773 and dumped the cargoes into the water. The captain’s log book, dated Thursday, December 16, 1773 stated:
Between six and seven o’clock this evening, came down to the wharf a body of about one thousand people, among them were a number dressed and whooping like Indians. They came on board the ship, and after warning myself and the customs-house officers to get out of the way, they undid the hatches and went down the hood, where was eighty whole, and thirty-four half chests of tea, which they hoisted upon deck, and cut the chests to pieces, hove the tea overboard, where it was damaged and lost.
The event was publicized as “the destruction of the tea” but was not recorded as the “Boston Tea Party” until the mid-30s, around 1834/5, when the new moniker was born, for opposing oppressive government control.
The tea party of 1773 united all of the Colonists under a moniker surviving today. Whether protesting as tea party members, as patriots, as occupiers, the opposition and clamor to correct abuses is louder than ever. It gives us our Republic and a Republican form of government.
The Republic is a renovation of the natural order of things, a system of principles as universal as truth and the existence of man, and combed moral with political happiness and national prosperity. It is the natural order to preserve liberty, property, and security as guaranteed rights of man. It extends the sovereignty of such rights into the political associations which comprise the nation and demands that such associations, whether individual, or as a body of men are only entitled to that authority which is expressly derived from the people.
What is called the Republic is not any particular form of government like democratic, aristocratic, or monarchy. It is wholly characteristic of the matter or object for which government ought to be instituted, and to which it is to be employed— A REPUBLIC, the public affairs, or the public good; or, literally translated, the public thing.
It is a word of a good original, referring to what ought to be the character and business of government; and in this sense it is naturally opposed to the word monarchy which encompasses arbitrary power vested in an individual person, the exercise of which is the person, and not the republic.
The REPUBLIC, public thing has as its origin the Greek “Democracy”; however, there are many strong limitations in the Democratic form of government. It ultimately leads to the failure of a true Democracy in guaranteeing the innate rights of man.The true distinction between a Republic and a Democracy is that in the Democracy the people meet and exercise the government in person. In a Republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives.
Democracy will, by necessity, be confined to a small spot. A Republic may be extended over a large region. Mitt Romney’s negative ad attacks on the Obama presidency and healthcare reform are an example of this kind of modern comparison.
Democracy works well as a form of government where limited in scope of size and population it can conduct the REPUBLIC or the public business of a nation until, however, it becomes too extensive and populous. Democracy cannot work effectively as the separate parts soon become oppressive once becoming powerful.
Space and size quickly destroy the effectiveness of Democracy. Ancient Greece discovered this quickly as power shifted from Athens, and the demand for centralized power in the government arose out of strength, not voice. Under a Republic, the public voice, as pronounced by the representatives of the people, is more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.
Our Tea Party fought not so much for sovereignty, but for the public voice to be heard by abusive powers. Their voice, being unheard, soon results in a voice demanding to be heard. They wanted representation then, most of all. And when denied, the very voice which believed in natural law, gave birth to a new nation and a new form of government: the Republican Form.
This startled the world juxtaposing a new voice within a Democracy. A people’s voice creating a Republican form of government: a government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively. It did not connect with any particular form which the world understands.
It defies being subservient to another power and declares itself sovereign by divine right and by voice. And that voice declares itself by representation.Adding representation upon Democracy creates a system of government which embraces and brings together all the various interests and every extent of territory and population known.
The Republican form of government immediately concentrates the knowledge necessary to the interests of the parts and of the whole. The whole is now the nation, the parts are states, the people are also parts of the whole, yet their collective voices, by representation, become the whole.For once, government can be seen as the child of the voice of the people who created it. Every man is a proprietor in government, and has the duty to consider it a necessary part of his business to understand. The Republic concerns his interest, because it affects his property, his life, and his pursuit of happiness.And these interests have costs which derive themselves from all men being created equal.You can examine the cost and compare it with the individual or collective advantages. And your voice, alone must represent your examination before all others.
With the advent of a Constitution enumerating what you grant, you do not have to adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called leaders.
As Benjamin Franklin quickly noted when asked what kind of government is formed, he answered prophetically: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
It is not easy to preserve and keep a Republic once it begins to fall away. The heart of the republic is the voice of the people and the voice of the people is expressed through its mandated representation.
How often have you heard representatives say, I voted for the “good of the country”, or for the “good of the party”, when the voice going unheard is the voice of representation which says… vote for the good of the republic within the district you represent?
Representation must represent only those constituents who exercised the sovereign right to put them in power and position to represent.
Your Congress represents elected officials representative of a part of a whole. They are not the whole, nor can they represent the nation without consent from the majority of the other parts which form that whole. The whole is the nation; however, the voice of the nation is the people collectively expressing themselves through individual representatives.
A nation is not the body, the figure of which is to be represented by the human body; but is like a body contained within a circle, having a common center, in which every radius meets; and that center is formed by representation. The representatives, too, represent themselves only as a part of their very constituency and are one voice within their collective membership when in Congress Assembled. There can be no vote taken by them for the “good of the country”.
As representatives sitting in the federal government, the “good of the country” only occurs concomitantly with the consent of the rest of the nation.What is government but more than the management of the affairs of a Nation? It is not, and from its nature cannot be, the property of any particular man or family, but of the whole community, at whose expense it is supported; and through by force and contrivance it has been usurped into an inheritance, the usurpation cannot alter the right of thing.
Sovereignty, as a matter of right, appertains to the Nation only, and not any individual; and a Nation has at all times an inherent indefeasible right to abolish any form of government it finds inconvenient, and to establish such as accords with its interest, disposition and happiness. Every citizen is a member of the collective sovereignty; and as such, can acknowledge no personal subjection – his obedience can be only to the Common Laws.
As members of the national government, the good of the country is only that under powers given by citizens, and granted to the national government, such as the management of foreign affairs wherein the states waive all rights to make a treaty, enter into an alliance, receive a foreign ambassador, or deal in any way with a foreign government.
The balance of power, conversely, and ultimately, flows from the bottom up rather than from the internationally recognized top down. Such principles of Declaration are the truths to restore our Republic. They are reserved in the declarations made by the Tea Party forefathers. What have we learned?
That man has rights, — life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. This is the legacy left us. The ideal of individual liberty, that an individual has certain fundamental and inalienable rights which municipal, state or federal government can never override without permission.Governments exist for the benefit of the governed to secure and protect those rights of man. Government is FOR the people.
And that these governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Government is OF the people and BY their consent. Whenever any government usurps power and becomes destructive of the rights of man, then it is the right of the people to overthrow that government, and when necessary to do so, it is also the right and duty of the people to establish a new government on whatever principles and in whatever form will insure to them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That under law and government, and in the protection of the rights of the people “all men are created equal” and must be allowed the fullest and freest exercise and development of their natural powers.
And that these governments“derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”Government is OF the people and BY their consent.
Whenever any government usurps power and becomes destructive of the rights of man, then it is the right of the people to overthrow that government, and when necessary to do so, it is also the right and duty of the people to establish a new government on whatever principles and in whatever form will insure to them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That under law and government, and in the protection of the rights of the people “all men are created equal” and must be allowed the fullest and freest exercise and development of their natural powers.
And to do so, our forefathers decreed: “there shall be freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceable assembly, freedom of petition. The homes of the people shall be secure against search, seizure, or intrusion, except by legal process. No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense, nor shall any person be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
Continuing, “no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it, but any one accused of crime shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime may have been committed. He shall not be arrested except by legal process; he shall be informed of the exact nature of the accusation; he shall be confronted by the witnesses against him, and shall not be compelled to testify against himself.”
Some of those who represent us now in Congress Assembled are ineligible to represent us and have lost their citizenship.
Do you know the ORIGINAL THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT was passed in support of Article I, Section 9, of the United States Constitution?
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Said original Amendment is a matter of record notwithstanding it being continuously omitted in reproduction as it clearly provides the penalty for enforcement of Article 1, Section 9.
The ORIGINAL THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT
Passed by Congress February 1, l865“If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive, or retain any title of nobility or honor, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office, or emolument of any kind whatsoever, from any Emperor, King, Prince, or Foreign Power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.”Is it any wonder, then, that the following two questions might just be answered with an emphatic: NO!
Can any attorney taking oath to any Bar association which pledges itself to the Crown of England still be a citizen?
Can any Congressman, in the House or Senate, accepting financial support from corporations or lobbyists outside their constituency and venue still be a citizen?
Thus, it is time again to restore America to its rightful place in history as that nation which first introduced the Rights of Man as being the grantor of power and privileges to uphold and defend its rights.
To do this, the Republic needs the voice of the people once more. We need to speak again as in 1773 where the real intent of the Boston Tea Party was not to just dump tea in protest of taxation. It was to demand representation and voice. Again, today, We the people, need to speak.It is our duty. Our rugged Constitution clearly gives us the Right to speak within our Bill of Rights with no less than six specifically identified amendments.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL VOICES
The only lawful constituent voices are those who can delegate representation in municipal, State or Congressional districts, and are limited to:
CITIZENS, who have been identified and are registered with district rights to vote for representation at municipal, State, or federal levels.
CORPORATIONS (like Mitt Romney‘s Bain Capital) which have only recently been identified by the U.S. Supreme Court as being persons.
Under Article XIV, Section 1, and having corporate headquarters in a specific Congressional district, they may lobby (one vote) only in their district for representation at municipal, State, or federal levels.We need now reformation of the process of creating and submitting bills for consideration and ratification. The following procedures are suggestive ballot measures to be sent via e-mail, blog, or what have you, to your representative or as a ballot measure for submission to voters on the next ballot to bring back the voice of America for the benefit of its people.
Anyone who expects bipartisanship in the wake of last Tuesday’s elections has not been paying attention. The Republican Party does not believe in a two-party system that includes the Democrats, and it never has. Ever since the Civil War, when the Republicans were convinced that their Democratic opposition was in treacherous league with the Confederacy, the Grand Old Party in season and out has doubted the legitimacy of the Democrats to hold power. While the Republicans have accepted the results of national elections as facts they could not change, they have not believed that the Democrats were ever legitimately holding power. Democratic victories, in the minds of Republicans, are the result of fraud and abuse.
Consider some examples: In 1876, Republicans in New York said the Democratic party was “the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason.” Half a century later, speaking of Woodrow Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodge told the 1920 Republican national convention that “Mr. Wilson stands for a theory of administration and government which is not American.” When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy spoke of “twenty years of treason” in the 1950s, he was not joking. He meant the statement as literal fact. So too did an aide to George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he observed, “We are America. These other people are not America.”
So when Rush Limbaugh comments that “Democrats were not elected to govern,” or Leon H. Wolf of Redstate says Democrats “should not be even be invited to be part of the discussion lest their gangrenous, festering and destructive ideas should further infect our caucus,” they are reflecting an attitude toward the Democrats that is at least a century and a half old.
If, as many Republicans believe, there are elements of illegitimacy and evil in the Democratic Party under the leadership of President Obama, then a posture of intense resistance become a necessary GOP tactic. Meeting the threat that the Democrats pose in terms of such issues as same-sex marriage, climate change and immigration reform requires going beyond politics as usual and employing any means necessary to save the nation.
For contemporary Republicans, scorched earth tactics and all-out opposition seem the appropriate response to the presence of a pretender in the White House who in their minds is pursuing the collapse of the American republic. There no longer exists between Republicans and Democrats a rough consensus about the purpose of the United States.
How has it come to this? A long review of both political parties suggests that the experience of the Civil War introduced a flaw into American democracy that was never resolved or recognized. The Republicans regarded the wartime flirtation of some Democrats with the Confederacy as evidence of treason. So it may have been at that distant time. What rendered that conclusion toxic was the perpetuation of the idea of Democratic illegitimacy and betrayal long after 1865.
After their extended years in the wilderness during the New Deal, Republicans reasserted their presidential dominance, with a few Democratic interruptions from 1952 to 1992. Republicans thus saw in the ascendancy of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and the two Bushes a return to the proper order of politics in which the Republicans were destined to be in charge and Democrats to occupy a position of perennial deference outside of Congress.
Then the unthinkable happened. Not just a Democrat but a black Democrat won the White House. The southern-based Republican Party saw its worst fears coming true. A man with a foreign-sounding name, an equivocal religious background, and a black skin was president and pursuing what were to most Republicans sinister goals. Under his administration, blacks became assertive, gays married, the poor got health care, and the wealthy faced both a lack of due respect and a claim on their income.
The Republican allegiance to traditional democratic practices now seemed to them outmoded in this national crisis. Americans could not really have elected Barack Obama and put his party in control of the destiny of the nation. Such an outcome must be illegitimate. And what is the remedy for illegitimacy, treason, and godlessness? To quote Leon Wolf again: “Working with these people is not what America elected you to do. Republicans, it elected you to stop them.” Pundits who forecast a new era of bipartisanship comparable to what Dwight D. Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Sam Rayburn, and Lyndon B. Johnson achieved in the 1950s are living in a nostalgic dream world. Richard Nixon viewed politics as war and contemporary Republicans will proceed to explore the validity of his insight over the next two years. For the American voter, clinging to the naive notion of the parties working together, each taking part of the loaf, the best guide may be Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Featured image: Members of the Republican Party gather at the 1900 National Convention. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The Republican party has traditionally been a more ordered, hierarchical organization, one in which the norm of waiting for one’s turn has been entrenched through the decades. When there is no consensus on the available candidates in the field, the runner-up to the last nomination contest becomes, by default, the front-runner. Today, Palin, Pawlenty, Thune, Huckabee, Gingerich, and Santorum are all names being mentioned. Yet no name stands out the way Mitt Romney’s does.
This weekend, Romney topped a straw poll of New Hampshire Republican Party Committee members for the party’s nomination. He was the runner-up in 2008’s straw poll in New Hampshire, and won 32 percent of the actual primary vote, just behind John McCain’s 37 percent. Now, the poll may not tell us much; New Hampshire is a Romney stronghold because he is from neighboring Massachusetts and owns a home in the state. But history and the Republican primary calendar appear to be moving in Romney’s favor.
This is because by the time the South begins to vote to give victories to Romney’s rivals, he would have had three chances to set up a delegate-grabbing momentum. Romney is the front-runner to beat in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary on or around February 14, 2012. On February 18, he is likely to win again in the Nevada caucuses because of his Mormon base there. On February 28, Michigan, where Romney was born and remains a favorite son, holds its primary. As we know of the law of momentum in primary contests, the early bird catches the nomination. Fortune’s arrows are certainly unpredictable, but she has bequeathed to Romney three shots toward the Republican nomination in the first two weeks of the primary cycle in 2012.
The Tea Party movement is inadvertently helping Romney out too. While everyone else is actively courting the Tea Party, Romney isn’t (and some say, he couldn’t even if he tried, because of his hand in healthcare reform as Governor of Massachusetts). This sets Romney apart to win the more moderate Republicans voting in states like New Hampshire, which happens to have a semi-open primary, which means Independents who are not registered with either party can vote in the Republican primary. Romney’s less than cozy relationship with the Tea Party may actually help him because while Palin and Huckabee et al split the Tea Party vote, Romney would be on his way to a delegate lead.
Republican donors appear to be concurring. Almost every economic index other than unemployment is likely to favor an Obama re-election in 2012, so the Republican party could do well to put someone with Romney’s credentials as a former businessman and CEO at the top of their ticket. With 9/11 a decade behind us (the only reason why Rudy Giuliani was the front-runner at this time in the 2008 cycle), American politics will likely regress to the mean so that 2012, like 2010, will be about the economy. Accordingly, Romney’s PAC (Free and Strong America) has raised more money than that of any other contender, including Sarah Palin, whose PAC raised $5.4 million in 2010, compared to Romney’s $8.8 million. Palin gets the crowds out, but Romney gets their checkbooks out. Big difference; and we aren’t even yet talking about Romney’s personal wealth.
Obama’s approval numbers have gone up for now. But one thing he has always been weak on – and watch him try to address this weakness on Tuesday’s State of the Union address – is that likeable as he appears to be, he is al
This Sunday, February 6, 2011, will mark the 100th birthday of the late U.S President, Ronald W. Reagan. In addition to serving as the 40th President of the United States (1981-89), Reagan also served as the 33rd Governor of California (1967-75). He enjoyed a successful career as an actor before coming into office, served in the U. S military during the Second World War, and survived an assassination attempt in March 1981. In honor of his life, we offer the following excerpt from Michael Schaller’s book, Ronald Reagan.
During his eight years as president, and especially after, supporters praised Reagan as a transformative leader who, like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, used his power to alter fundamentally the nation’s direction. Even many Americans who disliked Reagan’s policies agreed that he might well be the most influential president since Roosevelt, turning the nation away from many of the “big government” programs initiated during the New Deal. Reagan received widespread praise for restoring national pride and an unembarrassed muscular patriotism that had lapsed after the debacles of the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandals, and the economic reversals of the 1970s.
Democratic Party leaders acknowledged Reagan’s political skill but disparaged his ideas and programs. Clark Clifford, an influential power broker since 1948, called Reagan an “amiable dunce.” Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill put it more gently. Questioning Reagan’s understanding of his own administration’s policies, O’Neill described him as better suited to be a ceremonial “king” than a president.
Biographer Gary Wills explained Reagan’s self-assurance and determination in another way. Wills described Reagan as the real-life embodiment of the nearsighted Mr. Magoo. Like the cheerful cartoon character whose myopia prevented him from seeing anything either unpleasant or that did not conform to his mental map, Reagan simply plowed forward, oblivious to external realities.
Satirist Phil Hartman, part of the Saturday Night Live television ensemble, captured Reagan’s several sides in a 1987 skit. Hartman impersonated a silver-tongued but airheaded president sleepwalking through “photo ops” such as honoring Girl Scout cookie captain of the year. But when the photographers leave, Reagan morphs into a hard-charging executive, telling aides exactly how to supply weapons secretly to anticommunist guerrillas, performing complex currency calculations in his head, and even taking a call apparently from Saddam Hussein in Baghdad (conducted in Arabic) that results, Reagan boasts, in a “lucrative deal with the Iraqis.”
Yet these varied portrayals failed to account for the fact that throughout his career as an actor, governor, and president, most Americans felt comfortable with Reagan. They saw him not as a fool or an extremist but as something of an everyman who shared many of their hopes and fears. Critics who ridiculed his ignorance of complex policy issues misunderstood the source of his appeal, according to journalist Bill Moyers. “We didn’t elect this guy because he knows how many barrels of oil are in Alaska,” Moyers remarked in 1981. “We elected him because we want to feel good.”
Reagan’s presidency coincided with major changes in the economy, the erosion of support for liberalism and big government, and a crisis inside the Soviet Union that led to its demise. He shifted the l