Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pop Quiz: Politics or Theology? Wait, there's a difference?

Trinitarian debate or Republican mythology?
He's nothing like the father! He doesn't share the epistemology of the father. He doesn't have the nature of his father, the knowledge -- he has nothing in common with the father.

This actually comes from a discussion of Pres. Ronald Reagan and what, in theory, he would think of Sarah Palin. [via] It's a member of the current conservative commentariat telling Ronald Reagan JR. that she has a better grasp on his father's political judgement than he does. At one point she seems to conflate Reagan with the Founding Fathers, and concludes by saying that Ron Reagan, JR. must never have really met his father. Politically speaking, presumably.

The metaphysical discussion of political legacy aside, what actually struck me about this exchange is that Ron Reagan, JR. seems to have a higher (and better supported by recent evidence) opinion of his father's abilities and judgement than the so-called conservative he's arguing with, who seems to have absorbed the common liberal opinion about Pres. Reagan's essentially emotional/anti-intellectual approach to governance.

Update: to make things more interesting, Michael Reagan is getting into the act, raising the possibility that the Reagan legacy could split into opposing camps....


Terry said...

Oh my. I've never heard of this Pam Geller, and now I wish I hadn't. Your stomach is stronger than mine, A.

I don't get this fascination Republicans have with the opinion of dead guys. They want every constitutional issue decided based on what the "original framers intended," and are waiting for a Reagan reincarnation to lead them into the Promised Land. Yet Reagan ran deficits larger than the Jimmy Carter they so despise.

While the Left has occasionally flirted with the wish to carry on Camelot, but the true shining light of the Democratic Party, FDR, is never mentioned though we need him now more than ever. They, at least, are not mired in the past.

If there is to be any salvation for the Rep. party, they're going to have to start looking to the future rather than the past. But I doubt they'll manage it.

Ahistoricality said...

Geller's something, yeah.

Someone once described conservativism as "the worship of dead revolutions." You've got a good point about the Republicans: their transformation into a more or less uniformly conservative party is a sign of that past-orientation. It's also a very romantic approach (in the classical sense, not the Valentine's Day sense) of hero-worship, emphasizing purity and lost virtue.

I'm not sure we don't have FDR now: he was deeply polarizing in his day, with attacks up to and including a planned coup d'etat (the plotters picked the wrong general to ask for help, but it could have been ugly), and the fundamental instability of the world reminds me of the '30s pretty regularly. What I don't know is if Obama can break through the Hooverite obstructionism of the Republicans in time do do what needs to be done.

Terry said...

I knew that FDR inspired great hatred and panic, but I had no idea it went so far as a planned coup. It fascinates me, in that his VP and successor, Truman, was so celebrated.

Guess FDR should have nuked someone to insure his legacy.

I'd love to read more about the plot against him. Would you point me to a source that's relatively approachable for a lay person?

Ahistoricality said...

You'd think ending the Depression and winning the War would do it, wouldn't you?

There are two short pieces at HNN about the coup plot which give you some flavor, here and here. The wikipedia entry's not bad, actually: one of the most heavily footnoted and sourced short entries I've ever seen. There are some fairly substantial excerpts of related books available if you look at the "further resources" bibliography towards the end of it.

Terry said...

I can happily say I learned something today. Thank you!

Paul Swendson said...

I have trouble figuring out what a conservative is supposed to be any more. Most current Republicans are not fiscally conservative. They mostly pander to voters by supporting low taxes. Many Republicans support an aggressive foreign policy, which goes against the policies of past "isolationist" conservatives. Supposed conservative George Bush expanded medicare with a wasteful prescription drug benefit and supported a massive bailout of the financial industry. The only thing I can say for sure is that they dislike gay rights, abortion, gun regulations, and Democrats.

Ahistoricality said...

Political language, like political parties, shifts over time, and it's a pain in the ass if you live long enough, or study and teach history.

You think "conservative" is tough to pin down? At least you can go back to Burke. Try "liberal" sometime!