Friday, October 31, 2003

It may seem like the only blog I've been reading lately is Eschaton, but it ain't the case- regardless, I've found yet another interesting link to a CNN story about that new miniseries, "the Reagans", and the RNC's attempts to vet the content before it airs.
Gillespie said that if CBS denies the request, he will ask the network to run a note across the bottom of the screen every 10 minutes during the program's presentation informing viewers that the miniseries is not accurate.
This would seem like an odd request. The Republicans do not own the rights to the story of the Reagans, or to interpretation of the historical record, whether it be part of their own history or not. They've also brought out some serious threats if they don't get what they want- they're going to run television and print ads attacking the veracity of the series, and even threaten to buy them during the show itself. Why bother to do this, though, when they'll be attacked for playing fast and loose with the truth about any number of other oppositional political figures as well, including (but not limited to) the Clenis (tm) himself?

Oddly enough, this isn't about Clinton. It isn't about Reagan either, not really. It's about one man: Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am convinced that the entire reason behind the baffling and embarassing crusade to deify Reagan and convince people that his presidency was the best thing the Republic has ever seen is to try to blunt the reality that the most popular and influential president of this century was a Democrat- worse than that, a Democrat that they never beat. They instituted term limits because Roosevelt humbled them four times in a row, and face the problem that the man who almost singlehandedly brought them out of the worst crises of the century for America (the Depression and WWII) was not only not part of their party, but utterly hostile to everything they stand for.

In order to legitimize their movement, they need a symbol for it that can represent its success. Goldwater was its father, but he was electorally unsuccessful- spectacularly so. Bush I was ambivalent and a one-termer to boot, and Nixon was, well, Nixon. That leaves only two people: Bush the Younger and Ronald Reagan. They're already trying with Bush the Younger, but it's a story still being told, and true-blue conservatives are already becoming somewhat disenchanted with the guy's political maneuvering. This leaves Reagan, and only Reagan, so they are forced to do whatever it takes to turn the guy into the best president this century has seen.

So the efforts are everwhere. We see it at Republican conventions where they run retrospectives about Reagan. We see it in the cheap corner-store "special" magazines that popped up after 9/11. We see it in the manipulation of economic figures to try to simultaneously credit Reagan for both the prosperity during some of his presidency and the prosperity of most of Clinton's presidency, despite that line of argument implying that Carter was responsible. We see it in the consistent revisionist repetition that "Reagan won the cold war", despite the simple truth that had anybody else been in the Kremlin besides Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan's belligerency would have led to annihilation. We see it in practically everything the movement says about Bush II, too, because they're trying to mold him into a younger Reagan, without all that pesky Alzheimers.

This miniseries threatens that project, perhaps fatally. The Reagans aren't the people that the Republicans want you to think they are. They're not as bad as some might think, but are by no means the heroic stereotypes the Republicans are trying to make them out to be. Nancy remains the woman who consulted mediums on a regular basis, and Ronald remains the man that said that "we drop the bombs in ten minutes" because he didn't know the mike was on. And, perhaps most damagingly, he remains the man who ignored the AIDS crisis throughout his entire presidency, in part leading to one of the worst plagues affecting the modern world. Perhaps most damning, however, he's simply no Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and nobody in the current version of the Republican party ever could be.

No matter how hard they try, they can't get around the fact that the "Grand Old Party" is not the party of Lincoln anymore. It is, at heart, the party of Nixon.

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