Leaders are for calling people to their better angels, for helping guide them to a kind of sterner, more mature sense of what we need to do. To me, Reagan's brand of leadership was what I call 'a liturgy of absolution.' He absolved Americans almost in a priestly role to contend with sin. Who wouldn't want that?
Again and again as president, Reagan let it slip that he concurred with fundamentalists' belief that the world would end in a fiery Armageddon. This did not hurt him politically. The kind of people offended by such talk had already largely abandoned the Republican Party.
The reason inflation was brought down to manageable levels, by the time of Ronald Reagan's re-election, was directly attributable to Jimmy Carter's very courageous act, hiring a Federal Reserve chair, with the charge to induce a recession. That recession was probably the reason he didn't win a second term.
I'm just a Bolshevik with a laptop.
The history of American higher education over the twentieth century is an extraordinary one, the story of the creation of a powerhouse set of institutions that are the envy of the civilized world. Once they were the province, both among the student and faculty bodies, of children of privilege, generally WASPs.
For a movement supposedly devoted to conserving the past, conservatives are oh-so-splendid at forgetting their own past.
Conservatives are time-biders. And they understand, as Corey Robin explains in his indispensable book 'The Reactionary Mind,' that the direction of human history is not on their side - that is why they are reactionaries - because, other things equal, civilization does tend towards more inclusion, more emancipation, more liberalism.
It is a quirk of American culture that each generation of nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones, then chooses to remember the right-wingers of the last generation as sort of cuddly.
In Ronald Reagan's chaotic childhood, the imagination was armor. There is nothing unusual about that; transcending the doubts, hesitations, and fears swirling around you by casting yourself internally as the hero of your own adventure story is a characteristic psychic defense mechanism of the Boy Who Disappears.
That's the way cultural change works in America: the rest of us discard a prejudice that the Right still clings to; in the fullness of time, the Right comes around, too, deploying clever rationalizations to forget they ever bore the prejudice in the first place.
Here's an irony of the history of conservatism's relationship with business and business's relationship with conservatism: 'Wall Street' used to be the right-wing industrialists of the forties and fifties' greatest term of derision. (Wall Street was the place that humiliated them by forcing them, hat in hand, to beg for capital).
Sometimes I like to think that the responsibility of every new generation of Democrats is to devise a program that mints new Democrats for another seventy-five years or so.
There's a lot of surplus rage from the '60s that was never really worked through publicly. I think a lot of that rage still exists, and I think you see that when John McCain runs a commercial that beats up on Hillary Clinton's earmark for a Woodstock museum.
Economic issues are a subset of social justice. Social justice is unimaginable without economic justice. Isn't that obvious?
Racial rhetoric has been entwined with government from the start, all the way back to when the enemy was not Obamacare but the Grand Army of the Republic (and further in the past than that: Thomas Jefferson, after all, was derided as 'the Negro President').
When downed American pilots were first taken prisoner in North Vietnam in 1964, U.S. policy became pretty much to ignore them - part and parcel of President Lyndon B. Johnson's determination to keep the costs of his increasingly futile military escalation in Southeast Asia from the public.
Conservatism is, among many other things, a culture. The most important glue binding it together is a shared sense of cultural grievance - the conviction, uniting conservatives high and low, theocratic and plutocratic, neocon and paleocon, that someone, somewhere is looking down their noses at them with a condescending sneer.
In the suburban Midwestern Reform Jewish world I was raised in, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, grown men built plastic scale models of Israeli tanks and F-15 jets and displayed them throughout the house, dangling the warplanes from bedroom ceilings with fishing line.
Republican governors are more lunatic than they used to be - as attested by all the ones so eager to turn down free federal money to qualify more of their poor citizens for Medicaid under Obamacare. Meanwhile, some states have taken the money only to hoard it.
The reactionary percentage of the electorate in these United States has been relatively constant since McCarthy's day; I'd estimate it as hovering around 30 percent. A minority, but one never all that enamored of the niceties of democracy - they see themselves as fighting for the survival of civilization, after all.