Thanks to Guest Scrogue Natasha Chart for this piece.
This is how Democrats should use Reagan’s words. To give credit where it’s due, Obama’s speech this past Sunday at MLK’s own Ebenezer Baptist church lifted Reaganesque language and put it in a progressive context that I can only applaud. Emphasis mine:
… I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.
… We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.
… We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity. …
The public wasn’t concerned about how government had “grown and grown” until Reagan made government a symbolic stand-in for brown people, poor people, ‘lazy’ people, immigrants (who were also lazy, except when stealing our jobs,) gays and uppity women.
And if you think you know better what Reagan’s Big Government meant to white voters than a white, Reaganite, working class, minister’s daughter from Los Angeles, please think about that again.
That son of Cain’s whole candidacy, presidency even, was a big, long screed on how we are not our brother’s keeper, straight from the heart of John Birch country in Orange County, CA, home to one of blue America’s most infamously racist police forces. (Because my home state is more than hippies and actors Grand Central.) How the poor and colored were leeches on (hardworking, white, straight) society that white people could then feel pious about not wanting to help with ‘my tax money.’
Reagan turned robber baron feudalism-turned-capitalism, a doctrine whose basic premise is that all men are absolutely not equal, into a state religion. And through that ‘faith,’ he blessed, whitewashed, if you will, the scapegoating hate of the multitudes who were fearful of economic circumstances that had spiraled beyond their control. It isn’t necessary in my mind for a Democratic candidate to blast Reagan as a man, as has been suggested elsewhere. I don’t think that would accomplish anything. But the arguments he made as a president still run the tables in the press and they must not be strengthened by carelessness, nor the the hatred and fear they represent be absolved, by Democrats and progressives.
If Obama will walk that back, and he did it here with some great care, then so will I.