Friday, July 16, 2010

Fixation on Reagan Not Helping the GOP

538's Tom Scaller on Reagan's "New Directions" speech (30 years ago!) and it's continued influence over the GOP:

What's remarkable is how we still hear the same, core arguments about the role and functions of government--and how the policy-specific debates over matters like offshore drilling persist as well. And yet here we are, 30 years later, and the tax burden is at its lowest since 1950, the regulatory state has been cowed if not captured by the industries it is supposed to oversee, and America stands as the world's lone remaining superpower. The antipathy toward government Reagan popularized has, even if indirectly and merely in spirit, contributed to a governing approach that has led to everything from coal mine disasters to the BP oil spill. (Just to preempt comments, I'm not blaming Reagan for the BP spill; indeed, I too wonder "What Reagan Would Do" if he had cogently witnessed the de-regulatory behaviors of the previous administration. But anyone who thinks energy policy deregulation had nothing to do with the spill should read this first.) But because a lot of the goals Reagan set forth in his 1980 Detroit speech have been achieved, even if in part, it is tempting for Republicans and conservatives to conclude, "Hey, Reagan was right, so let's duplicate his model"--when, in fact, 2010 is not 1980, and a continued fixation on Reagan may be doing more to hamper than help the modern GOP. 

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