Thursday, February 17, 2011

Everyone Loves Reagan.(?)

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

With their strongly principled undertones, Ronald Reagan quotes such as this one reflect how the 40th president of the United States restored American spirit and optimism at a time when the economy was troubled and Americans were questioning their place in the world. By reminding the nation of their history, Reagan rekindled a sense of ambition among Americans and undoubtedly left a political legacy in which remnants have began to re-emerge in recent years.

Embodying the conservative movement as a leader of strong principles, the name-dropping of Reagan has proved to be a popular tactic for current Republican White House contenders yet the president's beliefs still resonate with Americans from across the political spectrum as he is often ranked among the most popular presidents in history. This invoking of Reagan is discussed by Jim Malone in his article Ronald Reagan Remains Potent Republican Icon. He mentions how the unpopular Sarah Palin said "I probably consider myself a Western conservative in the spirit of Ronald Reagan, in that tradition, because I know that he understood the small town pioneering spirit and values of hard work and rugged individualism and love thy neighbor", homing in on Reagan's values. However, Malone also acknowledges how Democratic President Barack Obama has referred to Reagan on occasion, most significantly while running for president in 2008 stating that he "tapped into what people were already feeling, which is, 'we want clarity, we want optimism'". The article ultimately conveys Reagan as a political icon who established a "legacy" as Malone describes the "Reagan Revolution" of the 1980s that placed an emphasis on smaller government, lower taxes and perhaps most attractively restoring America's pride.

This month Time magazine published an article The Role Model: What Obama Sees In Reagan as the cover photo depicts Reagan's arm draped over a cheeky Obama with the title "Why Obama ♥ Reagan". Although this suggests that the article would be about the similarities between the two presidents, it in fact does the opposite. The article is arguably the liberal mainstream media's attempt to associate Obama with Reagan in order to increase Obama's popularity with the vast amount of Reagan supporters. It is however interesting to make comparisons between Obama and Reagan. Like Obama, Reagan was elected during a deep recession and a time in which the United States’ world image and Americans needed someone to believe in; to be reminded of American strength. Reagan was an ideal candidate for conservative white Americans being a white, 69-year-old, former movie actor who conjured more nostalgia than reality. A man who struck many ironies, Reagan admirers did not see beyond this comfortable image; a man who was able to decry taxes on the one hand, but end up raising them on the other hand. In stark contrast, Obama represents a future that frightens these very same Americans as Latinos and African Americans are predicted to make up the majority of the population since the white birthrate is declining. This feeling of outrage among some white Americans is especially apparent when considering that their taxes may be used to help people who they believe have stolen their country from them. Though it is no wonder that those disgruntled Americans do not take into account how their hero Reagan signed a sweeping law that granted amnesty to nearly three million illegal immigrants in 1986.

Democracy Now! explores this issue in the article Regan and Race: He Maintained A System Of Rich And Poor, A System Of Black And White. Here, the former president is described as disregarding racial minorities and women; while white conservatives spoke about him as if he was a saint, the reality is that everything he represented was the old white racist ideology of the nation. The article negatively reflects on Reagan's 8 years in office, from "Iran-Contra, to the bloody US-fuelled conflicts in Central America, to his administration’s arming of both Iran and Iraq, to his invasion of Grenada and the nuclear arms race" while he is also described as having an "assault on affirmative actions and social welfare programs", cracking down on "organized labor" while "America’s homeless population grew to over 2 million people".

Considering these articles, it is clear that Reagan did and continues to saturate the media with more legend than truth. To echo Willy's theory in Arthur Miller's classic play Death of a Salesman, if a man is well liked then all the doors will automatically be opened for him; when it comes to politics, Reagan can certainly be applied to this theory for he was a man of much style and little substance. But isn't that the case with most politicians?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.