I don’t know what anyone else will make of it, but I think Pete Spiliakos has written one of the most perceptive partisan political diagnoses you’re likely to read in the next few months.
The official title when it was published was “Enough Talk About Entrepreneurs,” which I suppose is defensible since I might not have read it had the working title, disclosed by the URL, made the final cut: “What Mitt Could Have Learned from Reagan.”
Yet as far as I’m concerned, that uninspiring working title is the key inspiration of the piece:
It is worth comparing Romney’s life experiences to Ronald Reagan. One of Reagan’s jobs was to talk limited government politics to GE’s unionized and overwhelmingly Democratic employees. If Reagan wasn’t connecting with those workers, he was failing. Reagan managed to get a sense of the priorities of those workers. He got a sense of how those employees saw their work, the past, and their own lives.
Eventually, Reagan had a better sense of blue collar workers than liberal politicians like Walter Mondale and Mario Cuomo who were rhetorically dependent on heavily mythologized visions from the 1930s. Liberal journalists loved Mario Cuomo’s absurdly overrated speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, but Reagan carried Cuomo’s home state.
Reagan’s liberal opponents treated his appeal to wage earners as some combination of larceny and sorcery, but the truth was that Reagan was just better at listening to the wage earners of his own time while his opponents believed those wage earners were duty-bound to buy whatever distorted version of the past the Democratic party was selling. What Republican is listening so well to the concerns of today’s wage earners when it comes to national issues?
I think this really was a lot of Reagan’s charm and success, and that those who yammer about returning to “Reagan principles” of endless tax cuts are a bunch of mindless fetishists, mistaken about the source of his charm and projecting their own ideology onto historic memory.
I think more middle Americans should be voting Republican, and would if the GOP wasn’t so blatantly indifferent to them, obsequious toward plutocrats. I don’t think Liberal Groin Pieties have much cachet beyond the Democrats’ “vote your vice” base. My contempt for the GOP has nothing to do with admiration of the post-1972 Democrat party.
But I think the GOP is rapidly pissing away the opportunity to give the Democrats such a thorough political thrashing that they’ll start whistling a different tune out of an instinct for survival.
Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Republican plutocrats versus Democrat sexual libertines. Seems pretty mad to me.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)