Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSHISNAME. If you though "Bring Back Birdie" was a bomb, wait 'til you get a load of "Bring Back Reagan," now playing at OpinionJournal:
When Rep. John Shadegg jumped into the race for House majority leader last week, he called himself a "Reaganite" who would bring back the Gipper's vision of limited government...

It's telling that now, five years into the second Bush presidency, conservatives are still looking for the next Ronald Reagan to champion their ideas in Washington. Even as Reagan and the current President Bush have similar presidential records--fighting wars of ideas around the globe and running federal deficits at home--Reaganism is the party's philosophy, with its belief in small government, low taxes, forceful conservatism, a strong military and the view that this country is a shining example for all the world.
Several of this article's ideas are humorous -- for example, the notion that "wars of ideas" has been redefined since St. Ronnie's time to include carpet bombing, prolonged and unwanted occupation, and the secret detention of American citizens -- but only one is interesting: that conservative apparatchiks still count on invocations of Reagan to sanctify their latest predations.

Does that shit work anymore? Reagan is widely admired, true -- but so is Bill Clinton. This poll has the Glimmer Twins at one and two -- ahead of Lincoln! -- with younger voters prefering Bubba.

Clearly these findings have little to do with historical reality, and much to do with aspiration and self-identification. People who grew up in the 1980s tend to overvalue Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark; likewise, those who grew up with Reagan, when approached by the opinion collector, think not of the evil GE shill sticking a hose into the Treasury and throwing the other end to his corporate buddies, but of their carefree youth. Same with Bubba Blowjob.

So as they prepare the Republican makeover, professional bullshit artists will naturally avail heavy quantities of Spirit of Reagan. They may be right. Not to get too deep into it, but our country is sunk into a peculiar, new state that we might call psuedo-romanticism, best symbolized by the gestural, yellow-sticker support our citizens reflexively give to a war in which few of them believe. We are awash in bunting, but bankrupt of ideals. Ask your neighbor which American value he prizes above all others, and he'll probably hesitate (or name the dollar menu at McDonald's). What do we stand for? Greater earning power than you get in Kenya? All-you-can-eat shrimp? Supposedly preserving freedom for others at the expense of our own?

St. Ronnie may be a great icon for such a time. Or it may be that he's outworn his welcome. Seeing for the millionth time his wizened, hard-smiling visage in OpinionJournal, I was reminded of the Joker in Batman. As our values become more formless and free-floating, the shock of the new must be constantly applied to keep this rumbling corpse of a Republic tottering forward.

If Reagan turns out to be as welcome at the Republican relaunch as any other senile grandfather, things will get weird. What other corpses and near-corpses are available? Nixon? Ford? Bush I?

In that case, prediction: the lighting rise to power of Kurt Busch!

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