Mirror mirror: Obama is the Democratic Reagan
We love symbolic victories in the culture wars. But what is Obama doing while we’re distracted? Selling us out, just like Ronnie did.
I used to argue that Ronald Reagan was playing the religious right like a wore-out banjo. Sorta. The big social issue of the day, of course, was abortion, and Ronnie did a lot of talking about how it had to be stopped. The thing was, he always talked a lot more than he did. Yes, reproductive freedom was under siege more post-Reagan than pre-, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been a lot worse had he genuinely cared as much as he pretended he did.
What Reagan really cared about was the crowd we now call “1%ers.” It was about further enriching the already rich through any means necessary. Problem was, 1%ers didn’t comprise a voting majority. So the conservative project that had been building since the mid-’60s had developed a brilliant coalition strategy – “movement conservatism” – that pulled together all kinds of people who shared the same “values.” They didn’t really, but this was about getting elected.
Reagan and the rest of the GOP leadership were pandering. They traded on all kinds of craftily constructed ideological and rhetorical tools aimed at convincing what some have called the “trailer park right” – not a nice term, I know, but it signifies – that the country club right was on their side. Biggest lie in American history, probably, but damned if it didn’t work.
Now we’re seeing the same tactic being employed on the other side of the aisle. (And by “now,” of course, I mean “since January 20, 2009.”) Barack Obama campaigned as a progressive. He has missed very few chances since taking office to talk a good liberal game, but like Reagan, there has been a significant talk/walk gap. Most of the lip service has been on social issues and themes. Reagan-era conservatives had their abortion, while contemporary progressives have their marriage equality.
Thing is, while Reagan was chumming the waters with fake Bible issues, he was doing all in his power to free the wealthy and the corps and the oligarchs from the shackles of social responsibility. Taxes are evil. Regulations are the work of freedom-hating liberals. WELFARE QUEENS!
And Obama? Hmmm. How many of the folks who crashed our economy have been pursued by his Justice Department? What about the Trans-Pacific Partnership? You know, “fast-track” authority to sneak legislation written by corporations past Congress without ample time to deliberate. Up or down – are you pro-business or a socialist?
Now this, which was passed my way by our friend Dr. Denny.
Three top Democrats are accusing the Department of Housing and Urban Development of quietly removing a key clause in its requirements for taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage insurance in order to spare two banks recently convicted of federal crimes from being frozen out of the lucrative market.
HUD’s action is the latest in a series of steps by federal agencies to eliminate real-world consequences for serial financial felons, even as the Obama administration has touted its efforts to hold banks accountable.
In this sense, the guilty plea has become as meaningless to banks as their other ways of resolving criminal charges: out-of-court settlements, or deferred prosecution agreements. “Too Big to Fail” has morphed into “Too Big to Jail” — and then again, into “Bank Lives Matter.”
Gays can marry. Texans have no right to a vanity plate with the Confederate battle jack on it. And by the way, that odious symbol of slavery and racial hatred no longer flies on the grounds of the SC state house.
Meanwhile, Obama is working as hard on behalf of the people he reports to as Reagan did. As Bush did. As Clinton did. As Hillary Clinton will, if elected.
All kinds of polling shows that the social conservatives who floated the GOP boat for the last 30 years or so are dying out and that fewer and fewer of those who identify as Republicans really give a damn about whether gays can get married. The corporations who write all those dark money checks are actually pro-marriage equality – because it’s good for business – and more and more GOP leaders have said it’s time to move on. That war is over, and the future of the Republican party is going to be less and less concerned with faux moral outrage. Economically they’ll be about preserving the status of the 1% and socially they really won’t care as long as you’re a good consumer and you leave their bank accounts alone.
In other words, the future of the GOP is … Barack Obama.