Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Example of Contemporary Reagan Hatred.

For my blog this week I have chosen to look at an example of Reagan hatred. The example I’ve found is an article written by Steve Kornacki from Salon Media Group online magazine, which compares the political trajectory of Ronald Reagan with that of President Barack Obama.
First launched in 1995 by founder David Talbot, Salon was the first internet only commercial publication featuring original investigative stories along with breaking news and entertainment. Salon writer Steve Kornacki – who has previously written for the New York Times, the New York Observer and the Wall Street Journal – featured an article in August 2010 titled This Week In Baseless Reagan Hagiography in which he critises Reagan’s presidency while also comparing it to that of current U.S. President, Barack Obama. He begins the article by stating “why is it so hard for pundits to admit that Reagan was just as unpopular in 1982 as Obama [was] in 2010.” – an interesting comparison to make when taking into account historical context. In both 1982 and 2010 America experiences an economic recession at a time when both Reagan and Obama are half way through their first term in office. With their mid-term election results indicating a decline in the support for these presidents, Kornacki suggests that Reagan and Obama’s presidencies are following the same path (he states they have “nearly identicle political trajectories.”)
He goes on to argue that Reagan was “not some magical political super-being” as many remember him to be – he is often ranked among the most popular presidents of the United States, especially in recent years. Kornacki refers to the lack of public confidence in Reagan at the time of his presidency, as well as his bad mid-term election results and the doubts about his presidency felt within his own party, stating that the Republicans called for Reagan “not to seek re-election in 1984”.
Further into the article he goes on to quote Fouad Ajami’s 2010 Wall Street Journal article which states that Reagan “was never bigger than his country… he gloried in the country and took sustenance from its heroic deeds.” This suggests that Reagan’s presidency didn’t help shape America but that America helped shape his presidency. While Kornacki would agree that Reagan’s as president didn’t make any positive progress for America in his role as president, therefore agreeing with Ajami’s point, he criticises Ajami’s conclusion that Reagan was popular in his second term, with specific reference to America’s victory in the Cold War, saying that there’s “no evidence that the unbreakable bond between the president and his people ever really existed”. To illustrate this he once again refers to Reagan’s poor mid-term election results, which saw a drop in the number of Republicans in Congress, as well as the Iran-Contra affair of 1986 – a political scandal in which the Reagan administration facilitated the sale of arms to Iran in order to free American hostages.
Kornacki claims that Reagan’s policies were to blame for the problems which 1980s America faced, such as growing unemployment and economic recession. He also suggests that Reagan’s character didn’t help his popularity or success, stating “his personality counted for nothing.”
Kornacki concludes by stating “There’s just no need to bend over backwards trying to invent reasons for Reagan’s post-’82 strength when we already have a perfectly good one” saying that the Republican party “began a course independent of Reagan’s White House”. He therefore suggests that it is not Reagan who should be remembered as a great president but the Republican party of the time that should be recognised for their achievements. After studying the presidency of Reagan last semester I would agree with this conclusion. I feel that while Reagan did later see economic success and the Cold War victory he himself was not responsible. Along with the Iran-Contra affair I agree that Reagan was not a great president. It will be interesting to see whether Kornacki’s theory that Obama’s presidency will follow the same path as Reagans plays out. Commenting two years after his article was written, it appears that he may have been right about the Obama presidency with the recent decline in his popularity.

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