Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Bray and Swagger

So I wrote this much -- the italics down below -- and learned again why I'm not old enough yet to write about political matters.

It was very easy to write my list of the awful things that Reagan had done. They've stayed with me, and roll out effortlessly. They may even be true, who knows? But in fact almost the whole thing is made up, invention and pastiche, phrases parroted and hastily re-upholstered in the cheap fabric of my own prose. I'm talking through my hat, talking about things I really know very little about, with that tell-tale daily journalist's bray and swagger. I hate that. It's the stupid noise of prattle like this that drowns out the sound of people who talk about what they actually know, people who have actually bothered to do their research, and who have engaged with people who disagree with them. It is precisely the flood of this kind of posturing, brainless drivel that makes people loathe political talk and retreat to the purely personal. The bray and swagger become a little too obvious, when you're among friends talking about the realities of your own life in your own house. So until I've grown up a bit, the piece below is the last of such stuff you get from me.

Ronald Reagan's Gift

I forgot to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Reagan, when I was writing about him earlier. I owe him for teaching me that yes, presidential elections can indeed matter. After watching Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon grind through the Vietnam War with exactly the same grim obstinacy, and watching Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter muddle their way through the slush of the waning Cold War with identical awkwardness, it was easy to believe that it didn't really matter who sat in the Oval Office. But Reagan changed all that for me. The destruction he wreaked on institutions, the energy he lent to the future (mercifully brief) takeover of congress by the radical Right, the plethora of enironmental and judicial regulations that he eviscerated by the shrewd deployment of executive orders, the unprecedented financial irresponsibility he introduced, the crippling blows to organized labor, the gang of criminals he brought into the White House, the deep and lasting conviction he engendered around the world that the United States is a dangerous lunatic -- the election of that man mattered. Cured me of muttering about "Republicrats" and thinking of Democratic Party workers as patsies, I can tell you.

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