At The Economist: Ronald Reagan vs Donald Trump, or Political Manichaeism. Political Observer comments


Notice first that the writers at the Economist open their essay with an illustration that takes it inspiration from two famous paintings, one American the other French, both illustrating the Revolutionary fervor of the Age of Democratic Revolution, to borrow from R.R. Palmer. It is a self-serving pastiche featuring Trump, Putin and Farage as leaders of the Rebellion Against the Elites, as the propagandists at The Financial Times have named The Populist Menace. The reader is in awe about The Economist’s writers who cobbled together this description of the politics of Ronald Reagan, in their opening paragraph:

When Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again!” he was echoing the campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Back then voters sought renewal after the failures of the Carter presidency. This month they elected Mr Trump because he, too, promised them a “historic once-in-a-lifetime” change.

But there is a difference. On the eve of the vote, Reagan described America as a shining “city on a hill”. Listing all that America could contribute to keep the world safe, he dreamed of a country that “is not turned inward, but outward—toward others”. Mr Trump, by contrast, has sworn to put America First. Demanding respect from a freeloading world that takes leaders in Washington for fools, he says he will “no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism”. Reagan’s America was optimistic: Mr Trump’s is angry.

The reader is not confused by the hagiography of Reagan, as the model of the politically virtuous, contrasted with Trump as president elect, and a leader who bases his politics on anger. Some empirical evidence  about Reagan and his kind of politics put that ‘city on the hill’ and Dutch’s cultivated awe shucks demeanor into proper perspective.

Reagan opened his 1980 Campaign with a speech at the Neshoba County Fair, not far from where James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered. Call this what it is obscene pandering to a Dixiecrat audience!

I believe in state’s rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.
Should the reader look to this New York Times report titled ‘New Reports Say 1980 Reagan Campaign Tried to Delay Hostage Release’ by Neil A. Lewis, Published: April 15, 1991:

WASHINGTON, April 14— Persistent but unproven accusations that Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign negotiated a secret deal with Iran to prevent the release of American hostages until after the election are being revived this week with fresh accounts of meetings between campaign officials and an Iranian cleric.

One of the accounts is provided by Gary Sick, a Middle East specialist who helped handle the Iranian hostage crisis as a member of the White House staff in the Carter Administration. Mr. Sick, in an article published Monday on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, says he has heard what he considers to be reliable reports that a secret deal involving the hostages was begun during two meetings between William J. Casey and the Iranian cleric in a Madrid hotel in July 1980.

The allegation that there were meetings between Mr. Casey, Mr. Reagan’s campaign chairman, who went on be the Director of Central Intelligence, and Hojatolislam Mehdi Karrubi, a representative of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has been reported for the first time by Mr. Sick. Research for a Book

He says in his article that the accounts of the meetings in Madrid are part of an accumulation of information he has developed in research for a book. He says it has led him to conclude, despite earlier doubts, that some kind of discussions took place between the Reagan campaign and Iran.

Who can forget  Reagan in his 1976 Campaign on ‘Welfare Queens’, that became a standard Reagan political trope.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14—Few people realize it, but Linda Taylor, a 47‐year‐old Chicago welfare recipient, has become a major campaign issue in the New Hampshire Republican Presidential primary.

The Washington Star

Former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California has referred to her at nearly every stop, using her as part of his “citizens’ press conference” format.

“There’s a woman in Chicago,” the Republican candidate said recently to an audience in Gilford, N.H., during his freeswinging attack on welfare abuses. “She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands.” He added:

“And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax‐free cash income alone is over $150,000.”

Mr. Reagan never mentions the woman by name. But the effect is the same wherver he goes. During his second campaign swing through the state last month, for example, he startled people in Dublin and Jaffrey and Peterborough and Salem and in all the other little towns where he appeared. They were angry at “welfare chislers.” Mr. Reagan had hit a nerve.

The problem is that the story does not quite check out.

The political virtue of Reagan, when compared to the benighted politics of Trump, seems to fade, as Reagan was all about covering his malign politics with Public Relations, unceasingly practiced. Even to the colors behind the candidate, when he appeared at the podium to give his acceptance speech. Where has that carefully plotted, planned stagecraft gone since Reagan?

The reader only need look to Trump’s appointing of  Jefferson Beauregard  Sessions III as Attorney General, as indicative of the Dixiecrat sympathies of the president elect. Sen. Sessions looks and sounds like a villain out of a post-Civil War melodrama. And the appointment of  Michael Flynn, a retired military-intelligence three-star general, as National Security advisor, makes obvious the rapacious xenophobia of Trump is to be institutionalized. These are the appointments made by the Ringmaster of the Apprentice Circus : an integral part of his crusade against ‘illegal immigrant Mexicans’  and the ‘Devil’s Spawn of  Muslims’ are about the realization of an idiosyncratic American Fascism. With The Wall,  he expects Mexico to pay for, being the most cogent symbol of  his benighted concept of  Fortress State America: America First of Charles Lindbergh infamy, realized, sans an actual hero.

The coming apart of the ‘Liberal International Order’, read the ‘Neo-Liberal International Order’, that The Economist has spent decades advocating. And after its collapse in 2008, rationalizing that collapse, and the destruction of the destruction Welfare State in the name of ‘Austerity’, while defending Robber Capital, amounts to the Party Line of the Economist’s maladroit apologetic. Add to this fictional  political landscape the New Cold War, as a necessary check on Russian revanchism, and Chinese political adventurism in the South China Sea, and the reader can put together for herself the raison d’être of this propaganda masquerading as editorial meditation on the current crisis of Western Democracies

Political Observer

My reply to guest-ajalease , added November 19,2016 6:07 P.M. PST:


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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