Sunday, June 06, 2004

I was away from TV and the Internet over the weekend. Have they starting putting Reagan's name on every inanimate object in America yet? I know Grover Norquist isn't going to let the body get cold before trying to revive interest in his plan to have something named after Reagan in every county in America.

It shouldn't happen. Reagan was never the president of the whole country. He was the president just of the people who agreed with him. If you were a Democrat, or a liberal, or if you thought that any non-defense government program had any merit whatsoever, he dismissed you as a fool and a dupe. TV blatherers can tell you about his "sunny disposition" and "optimism," and Bush the Elder can say, "He was never mean-spirited," but he was mean-spirited a lot:

Republicans believe every day is 4th of July, but Democrats believe every day is April 15.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Government is like a big baby -- an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

A friend of mine was asked to a costume ball a short time ago. He slapped some egg on his face and went as a liberal economist.

(Source; source; source.)

Before Reagan, you heard that sort of flippancy about ideological opponents, but not from the Oval Office. Jimmy Carter became president with the help of voters who thought Nixon was the Antichrist, but he didn't subject the opposing party to trash talk; Reagan did.

Maybe it was just snark, or 1958 Vegas insult humor, but it went on for eight years, and it continues today in the work of Reagan's devotees, nearly all of whom are far nastier.

Now we have a 50-50 nation and a polarized political climate, after we on the Democratic side learned to give as good as we got. Thank Reagan.

George Bush the Elder said of Clinton and Gore, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos." That's Reagan's legacy. Newt Gingich called Democrats "the enemy of normal Americans." That's Reagan's legacy. The younger Bush doesn't talk like this quite so much; he just openly governs as if people who aren't churchgoing Republicans aren't Americans. That's Reaganism, too.


Incidentally, The New York Times found a fitting story to appear on the same page as one about Reagan's death -- a story about poorly run for-profit prisons. Does Grover Norquist really want stuff named after Reagan? I have an idea: Let's slap Reagan's name on any facility run for profit that would be run by the government in a sane, civilized country.

How did we get the crazy notion that our penal system should be outsourced to the for-profit sector of the economy, which, as the story notes, gives us overcrowding, understaffing, violence ("A survey by James Austin, a criminal justice researcher based in Washington, found there were 49 percent more assaults on guards per capita and 65 percent more assaults on other inmates in privately run prisons than in government-operated prisons nationwide") and other problems? We got that notion because Reagan told us for eight years that government is evil.

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