November 19, 2014


The Tie That Binds : How Ronald Reagan, the sunniest president in recent memory, cemented the Republican Party to the dark vision of Richard Nixon. (Ed Kilgore, Nov/Dec 2014, Washington Monthly)

The Invisible Bridge, like its predecessor Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, addresses a great puzzle of political history. How was it, the earlier book asks, that the apparent liberal consensus reflected in Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 landslide victory ended so very quickly? The Invisible Bridge similarly explores why Richard Nixon's forced resignation, followed by the "Watergate Election" of 1974, gave way to an era dominated by Nixon's most obdurate defender, Ronald Reagan. And even as Nixonland suggested that the 1964 "consensus" disguised powerful fault lines in the New Deal/Great Society coalition that Nixon so skillfully exploited, this latest volume suggests that Reagan, even more skillfully, encouraged Americans to deny the evidence of their own eyes and ears and reimagine their country as the "shining city on the hill"--a vision threatened only by self-doubt and excessive domestic government. [...]

Reagan's political genius was to convert Nixon's saturnine and ultimately self-defeating vision of an America divided into a compelling (if no less divisive) narrative. It was a narrative that inspired reactionaries who were unwilling to accept Nixon's or America's sins, and seduced a bored mainstream media looking for a new story line. Though Perlstein never quite puts it this way, it seems that Reagan accomplished the "positive polarization" that Spiro Agnew had announced as his goal shortly before he was caught taking cash payoffs from Maryland highway contractors in brown paper bags in the White House. That Agnew and then Nixon had turned out, after all, to be crooks left millions of political orphans, and at nearly the perfect time along came Ronald Reagan to adopt them.

The hilarious thing about the Left's view of Reagan is that they're so convinced that America is evil and that the rest of us are brainwashed that they elevate Reagan into this almighty wizard who has permanently blinded us to reality.  If Republican hagiographries of the Gipper tend to be a tad silly, these are buffoonery. Ultimately, they aren't even talking about Ronald Reagan, but about their own estrangement from the American people.

Posted by at November 19, 2014 5:37 PM

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