Ronald Reagan Bachmann

There’s nothing about the Tea Party that hasn’t been the case for the GOP as a whole over the past three decades.

Chris Matthews was not pleased about the comments of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – Neptune) concerning the history of race of in America.  Bachmann had claimed that from the beginning, America treated all races and ethnic groups equally; Matthews repeatedly demanded of Tea Party Express and longtime GOP operative Sal Russo why he had allowed such a “balloon-head” to represent the Tea Party (uh, Chris, maybe because she is representative of it?).

But something else jumped out at me.  The segment’s lead-in featured Bachmann wondering out loud whether this would be the last generation of American that lived in a free society, and whether “after 21 generations” [sic] we would “end the experiment” with freedom.  Where had I heard this before?

Oh yes, from last generation’s Tea Party activist, Ronald Reagan, who claimed that if Medicare passed, “pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him,” and that “[w]e are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Reagan, of course, also loved to whitewash the American racial past: he opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act when they were debated, and (in)famously began his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — where civil rights workers were brutally murdered — in order to deliver a thinly-coded address on states’ rights.

So while I am glad that Matthews has suddenly decided to take these people on, there is really nothing new here.  Michele Bachmann is the inheritor of the Reagan tradition, as is the Tea Party as a whole.  Nothing in the supposedly crazy “new” Republican Party is different from what Reagan and his cohort planned in the 1980’s.  Reagan was smoother and more jovial about it, but the press is supposed to see through such things.  That it hasn’t shows us just how corrupt the national press corps has been for many decades.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

21 thoughts on “Ronald Reagan Bachmann”

  1. Good point about Reagan and about how the press is supposed to see through this stuff. I know it is in vogue to blame the media for everything these days, but I can't help thinking you are correct that they have failed us when it comes to what was supposed to be their central functions – informing the public and providing a check on political leaders.

    It may be a trivial example, but I have noticed in countless interviews with elected Republicans that the interviewer never corrects the interviewee for referring to "the Democrat Party," as if there was such a thing. Even when the subject of the interview engages in such deliberate distortion, the interviewer enables it. If they can't do something this simple, it is tough to have confidence in their ability to do much else.

  2. Who claimed this was new to the latest Republicans? One must go back well before Reagan to find the roots of that madness. Compare Goldwater vs Bachmann. Reagan merely adopted/inherited the Goldwater craze and gave it an all-too-charming voice with which to lead the nation astray from the relative sanity of Ike's day.

  3. Meanwhile, as Alex Knapp puts it (via E.D. Kain at Balloon Juice:

    This is an incredibly simplistic way of looking at the world. In most ways — not all ways, but most ways — Americans are freer now than they've ever been. Consider the country’s state at the Founding — only landowners could vote. Women couldn’t own property. Blacks were property. Native Americans were being murdered and having their land stolen from them. Asians were prohibited from immigrating into the country. Trials were short, provided very few protections for defendants, and most people accused of crimes were on their own when it came to representation. Most trades were locked down by guilds, which were protected by law. State chartered corporations dominated the economy. Government jobs were determined by who was in favor with the local party bigwigs. You couldn’t have a business open on Sunday or overnight. Blacks, Germans, Irish, and Italians were forbidden from even entering certain towns, or at least staying overnight in them.

    Almost 250 years later, can you honestly tell me that people are less free than when the country was founded? The economy is enormously freer. Civil service is determined by merit, not political bootlicking. (Thanks for that, James Garfield!) Women can own property and their husbands can’t rape them. Slavery has been abolished. Equal treatment is the law of the land. Immigration is no longer determined by race. Defendants have much more protection from the depredations of the State. Every citizen can vote regardless of whether they own land.

    There are a lot of problems, to be sure. And the federal government, in the name of the “war on terror” has adopted an enormous number of illiberal, unconstitutional policies. But I’ll take today over 1790 in a heartbeat when it comes to personal liberty. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a freer country than it was in 1790.

  4. Maybe I'm just a genealogy nerd, but I kept laughing about "21 generations." So this is what happens when you have 11 year olds reproducing?

  5. Good point, Phil.

    Andrew Jackson’s testimony once convicted a man of manslaughter; he was branded on the hand with an M, while his family, unable to pay the costs for his defense (or the court costs) was imprisoned as deadbeats. The family spent more time behind bars than the killer.

    We don’t brand people anymore, but no one, certainly not Justice Scalia, can say this would be cruel and unusual punishment today, because it was still happening in the early decades of the Republic.

  6. I really hate to defend Ronald Reagan. But there are some signs he actually cared about policy, some of his policy preferences were sane, and a subset of these sane policy preferences were correct. Many (but not all) of Reagan's insane comments were intended as red meat for the rubes. (What did he actually do about abortion?) There are no signs that the modern Republican Party cares about policy, sanity, or being right. They seem to believe in their ranting, reserving their hypocrisy for gay rights.

    On politics, the modern Republican party is Nixonian: splitting the country in two, and going for the bigger half. Reagan preferred to make his coalition as large as possible.

  7. Interesting segue, from Republican opposition to entitlements and socialized medicine to race baiting. Makes sense, given that Zasloff is a Journalist. It's Spencer Ackerman's advice:

    What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.

    The Republican Party originated in opposition to slavery. The Solid South voted solidly Democratic until the 1930's or later. The Democrat Woodrow Wilson brought Jim Crow hiring practices to the Federal government. Values conflict. "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. Democracy, separation of powers, limited government, federalism, and market-oriented policy (private property and contract law) institutionalize humility on the part of State actors.

    The least-violence policy leaves non-violent interactions between consenting adults (e.g., employment decisions) outside the sphere of State influence. There's nothing racist about it.

  8. @ Ebenezer

    Allow me to remind you of the blind pig principle: Even a blind pig finds an acorn occasionally. Accidents happen, and sometimes the Reagan administration blundered into a sane policy.

    There were so many b**-s*** crazy ones (starting with Star Wars, extending to Iran-Contra, and on and on) that I don't believe the sane ones were anything but accidents.

    What evidence do you have that Reagan actually (a) cared about policy and (b) was thinking clearly enough to influence it?

  9. "and (in)famously began his 1980 general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — where civil rights workers were brutally murdered — in order to deliver a thinly-coded address on states’ rights."

    No normal people received the "coded message". Only paranoid leftists see a connection between Reagan's speech and murders which took place 16 years before it.

  10. Ronald Reagan was a second-rate actor who grew bitter about more talented people becoming successful while he (deservedly) stayed on the second tier. He was so bitter than when the McCarthy unamerican trials were taking place, Reagan testified against MANY people and ruined their careers. Then, when he became president of SAG, he signed a contract that eliminated royalties to older actors for their earlier works. Reagan was a horrible little man with a cruel jealousy streak who had nothing but contempt for the average working person.

  11. I thought about this immediately, when I first heard the 21 generations quote again from Bachmann. Not only are the wingnuts semi-literate, unhistorical, unscientific, but they are innumerate as well. These qualities seem to be requisite. And the MSM, in this case CNN gives them a platform and a free pass to spout this nonsense. 21 generations sems to be a signature of hers'. Recently in Iowa. Bachmann: <a>"For twenty one generations in America, we've listened to Lincoln's words".

  12. La Bachmann is delusional. Her words have value only as comic relief, and as a test of your personal knowledge of Civics and American History.

  13. (Denis): “What evidence do you have that Reagan actually (a) cared about policy and (b) was thinking clearly enough to influence it?


    Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of the seminal “Reagan’s War,” gets impatient with those who still harbor the notion that Ronald Reagan was merely the incidental occupant of the White House when the former Soviet Union imploded of its own weight.

    The fact is, argues the scholar and author, Ronald Reagan is credited with the victory in the Cold War not just by many armchair analysts – but also by the enemy. And who else would know better than those bitten by the Reagan steel?

    There was a grave reason, Schweizer maintains, why at arms summits, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev frantically offered increasingly gigantic cuts in strategic missiles – first 50 percent, then all of them –if Reagan would just abandon his Strategic Defense Initiative, as “Star Wars” was formally known.

    Genrikh Grofimenko, a former adviser to Leonid Brezhnev, has noted for the historic record: “Ninety-nine percent of the Russian people believe that you won the Cold War because of your president’s insistence on SDI.”

    SDI “played a powerful psychological role,” acknowledged KGB Gen. Nikolai Leonev. “It underlined still more our technological backwardness.”

    Gen. Sergei Kondrashey admitted that the initiative “influenced the situation in the country to such an extent that it made the necessity of seeking an understanding with the West very acute.”

    From the beginning, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko figured exactly what the wily Reagan was up to: “Behind all this lies the clear calculation that the USSR will exhaust its material resources before the U.S.A. and therefore be forced to surrender.”

    Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, spoke for most of Eastern Europe when he said: “Ronald Reagan played an invaluable role in bringing about the fall of communism and ending the Cold War without resorting to military solutions. Without his great political sense and prudence, instead of the popping of champagne corks, the world would have heard real artillery shots. We [in the Solidarity movement] sensed President Reagan’s support and understanding and never had to ask for or demand it. This is not something easily found in the world of politics.”

  14. And that has precisely what to do with domestic policy?

    Star Wars was not promoted as a way to win the Cold War. It was promoted as a more moral means of defense than Mutually Assured Destruction. The fact that the Soviets were silly enough to believe it was a real possibility is neither here nor there. The defense experts at the time said it was insane. Twenty-five years of R&D has borne out their analysis. We can't make the system work against ICBM re-entry vehicles unless the defense system has advance warning of the launch parameters. Even then, it's not completely realiable.

    And every dress-run mock-up has failed, this despite the knowledge that the launch must come from Vandenberg AFB.

    So Reagan either (a) got lucky, or (b) lied to the nation because he intended to bluff the Soviets in destroying their economy. I'm not sure which is more pernicious. If it's (a), then it's the blind pig theorem. If it's (b), then it's another case of Reagan lying to citizens of this country. I'm open to a proposal (c), if you've got one.

    By the way, what happens if the Soviets listened to their experts and said, "Knock yourself out, guy"?

  15. (Denis): “Accidents happen, and sometimes the Reagan administration blundered into a sane policy. There were so many b**-s*** crazy ones (starting with Star Wars, extending to Iran-Contra, and on and on) that I don’t believe the sane ones were anything but accidents. What evidence do you have that Reagan actually (a) cared about policy and (b) was thinking clearly enough to influence it?

    (Malcolm):"Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution …"

    (Denis):"And that has precisely what to do with domestic policy?"

    Changing the terms. Since you mentioned Star Wars (the SDI) and support for the anti-communists in Nicaragua (Iran-Contra), the discussion is not limited to domestic policy. Anyway, read Reagan, In His Own Hand. And remember, the President has more control over foreign policy than over domestic policy. Democrats controlled the House throughout both of Reagan's terms.

    (Denis): "By the way, what happens if the Soviets listened to their experts and said, “Knock yourself out, guy”?

    They would have gone bankrupt in any case. Reagan's appointment of George Schultz was a significant shift toward the Arab world. The Soviet Union depended on energy exports for foreign currency, and Reagan's policy reduced their leverage.

    I clipped the Spencer Ackerman quote.

    If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them–Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares–and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

    Jonathan follows the JournaList playbook.

  16. @Carter: The curent population of Philadelphia Mississippi is 7902 people. There are bigger high schools. I would guess it was probably smaller in 1980. So why would a serious politician start a national campaign in a backwater berg like that? No doubt they are famous for their annual corn bread festival or boast the largest imitation corndog on a stick in the world.

    Nope, Ronnie Reagan was giving a wink to the embittered segregationists (git de gummint outen r skools) who knew full well where the battles and skermishes of the race wars had been faught*.

    I lived in South Carolina in 1978-'79 and segregation, integration, yankees, lynching, ……. was all those folks wanted to talk about. Oh yeah they liked to talk about God and Jesus too usually when they were bringing up all those other topics. They loved them some Jesus an' lynchin' N*****s down in the heart O' Dixie!

  17. A serious politician cares about Mississippi's electoral college votes. The Neshoba County Fair is a traditional forum for politicians. In 1976, Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in Mississippi by a margin of 1.88%. In 1980, Reagan won in Mississippi by a margin of 1.32%.

    "I lived in South Carolina in 1978-’79 and segregation, integration, yankees, lynching, ……. was all those folks wanted to talk about"

    Sounds like fun. Is it still like that? I'm thinking of relocating.

Comments are closed.