Let's just get out of the way the idea that Reagan was the very personification of evil. No such luck. He was and continues to be a "forever" postage stamp, cost always on the rise*, value not notably improved.
If not the personification of evil, then how about his administration(s), OMG! Just look at this stream of names and weep: Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz. Check out the indicted and convicted, like John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams, Robert McFarlane and Oliver North and at least a dozen more. As an administration that spanned eight years, it was dirty, imperialist, corporatist, and about as corrupt over all as any we've had. It wasn't about the good of the American people, that's for sure. It didn't celebrate our ability to govern ourselves either. Government was "the problem."
Think I'm exaggerating? Grab the historical record and take a long depressing look at it.
So these words from Greg Sargent and EJ Dionne sound like relief from nightmare for which the Clinton years provided scant relief and which has persisted until now -- and which may be about to end.
Little by little, it’s sinking in that Obama’s inaugural speech has the potential to be a turning point in American history, one akin to Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address in 1981, in which he declared: “Government is not the solution to our problem; it is the problem.” That speech did more than articulate the conservative philosophy of governance; it was a declaration of ideological victory, a proclamation that the nation had opted for a new ideological direction.
Obama’s speech was every bit as ambitious, recasting progressivism in the eyes of the nation, declaring that the country has opted for a fundamentally new philosophical and ideological course. In a must read, E.J. Dionne explains:
Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
The key to Obama’s argument, as Ed Kilgore points out, is that he made the “long lost liberal case that collective action is necessary to the achievement of individual freedom, instead of implicitly conceding that social goals and individual interests are inherently at war.” Indeed, Obama himself put it this way: “Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
Crucially, Obama presented this idea as the philosophical underpinning that unified all of his specific policy proposals ... Greg Sargent, WaPo
("Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." Wow! How muslimcommunisticfascist can you get!)
Looking at the Reagan legacy, I don't know how we can avoid the conclusion that Reagan and his followers didn't find a problem with government, they created a problem with government. And went on, over twenty years, to abuse and lame our government and turn our political life into a viciously partisan exercise in futility.
*Going up again on January 27, 2013