Billmon is perplexed: how did it happen that the Reagan Democrats have started sounding like ’70s left-liberals?
I suspect that it’s all about betrayal. The Reagan Dems felt betrayed by the left, because it gave them disrespect (and empowered women and minorities while white guys were having status anxiety), because they blamed the Left for “losing Vietnam”, and because when times weren’t good Reagan promised shiny tax cuts without pain (remember the Laffer curve?).
Slow to change, slow to change back, but not stupid. The Reagan Dems are concluding that they’ve been betrayed (they’d say “again”), and they’re mad about it. They still don’t get respect, this time for having the wrong bank balance instead of the wrong sexual politics. They blame the Right for Iraq, and who wouldn’t? Times if anything feel worse, but those tax cuts turned out be worth $50, raises lag medical insurance inflation, and the idea that today’s tax cuts for rich folks are tomorrow’s tax increases for the rest of us is starting to take hold –the checkbook metaphor is a powerful one for folks who feel economically precarious.
Meanwhile gays turned out not be so scary now that they’re out of the closet and are revealed to be real folks, like the neighbor’s kid. Throw in the GOP’s corruption, and Reagan Democrats need a new home. The DLC is just Reagan Lite, so that’s no use. Why not economic populism? The only strange thing about it is having populist leaders willing to argue for their followers’ true interests…
Reagan Dems feel betrayed by the right even more. Car plant closures in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin don’t exactly play to the interests of the RD’s. Many RD’s also see immigration and Bush’s border policies – or non-policies – as a huge betrayal.
The failing fortunes of Rick Santorum speak to the shift in loyalties, and having checked out Bob Casey Jr courtesy of CNN, I can say with some confidence that his personal charisma and vision doesn’t account for Santorum’s slide. People simply don’t like what Herr Rick stands for any more. The fact that they like what Casey stands for may not be a stellar improvement when you take a close look at Casey’s not-exactly-progressive agenda. So even though the RD’s are returning, probably not all the way due to their issues with the directions on the left.
Great commentary on the Reagan Dems. The GOP shifted too far to the right and the moderates, even Republican moderates, went with the Dems this go-round.
Step in the time capsule back to 1980, when Reagan Democrats first came into the vernacular. Stagflation was rampant. American foreign policy seemed impotent in the face of the Iran hostage crisis, the fact that 3 of 8 helicopters failed, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and our weak response of boycotting the olympics — an event that we’d lost to the USSR and GDR for years. US manufacturing was generating poor quality product and jobs were being lost permanently.
Add to that the *not* insignificant fact that 1980 was the peak year of the violent crime rate in the US — and that it would stay high for 10 more years. It’s hard for people today to remember what it used to be like on subways in major cities.
Reagan represented tough foreign policy and hope for the economy, to be true. But don’t discount his subtle racist appeal and its relation to the violent crime rate.
Now, over a quarter century later, things have much changed. High inflation and high crime rates are distant, faint memories — the post-civil rights animosity towards non-whites is still present but at a much reduced level. The cold war is over, the USSR and GDR are no more, and the US is dominant militarily and highly competitive in international sports — even those we couldn’t dream of competing in back in 1980, like the Tour de France.
In other words, all the motivations for the party shift of the Reagan Democrats are long past. New irritants have emerged, and the Republicans are the guilty parties. No wonder the boys (and they were mostly boys) are coming home.