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[Dolly:]
Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out
Strut down the street and have your picture took
Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about
That Sunday shine is a certain sign
That you feel as fine as you look!

Dolly & Ambrose:
Beneath your parasol, the world is all a smile
That makes you feel brand new down to your toes

[Dolly, Ambrose, Cornelius, & Barnaby:]
Get out your feathers, your patent leathers
Your beads and buckles and bows
For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday...
No Monday in your Sunday...
No Monday in your Sunday clothes!

For years, one of my favorite movies was Hello Dolly. It was a go-to movie when, as they say, I felt down and out. Then I ran across an article about the brutal unsolved murder of one the co-stars, just a few years after the movie was released. The movie never felt the same again. Although the murder had nothing to do with the movie, the young shining face with the dazzling dance moves no longer seemed as joyous and free.

Wait, you say. You title mentioned Reagan? Right, getting to it. Republicans point to Reagan as their role model. They fall all over themselves to claim his mantle. The part of the Reagan myth they most treasure is the message that government is the problem. They have spent the years after Reagan in what they see as faithful adherence to this message. It has morphed from message to pledge to mandate to creed. The quest for smaller government has morphed into a loathing for government.

What they missed from the Reagan legacy has been the so-called sunny optimism. Do a Google search for sunny optimism and guess what- there is Reagan early in the search. It may have been an act, he was an actor, after all, but he made people feel good about life in general. His policies were disastrous; and, in fact, he was not terribly popular as a president. But his demeanor was pleasant and people felt good about it.

Bill Clinton remains a popular figure. Yes, his policies were better than those before him and those who came after him. But he was a sleazy philanderer and people still loved him. Is it because he is smarter than the average bear (he is, no doubt)? Is it because he worked with the opposition to get things done (he did, so did Reagan)? No, it is because of that big smile and the sense that he is having such a very good time.

The GOP has done much damage in the post- Reagan years. Unfunded wars, the building of the surveillance state, the unitary executive; the list goes on. But, to my mind, the most pernicious legacy of the GOP is the poisoning of the American Spirit. Their loathing of government, their seething hatred of Obama, their relentless negativity, the shouting, the fighting, the grim determination to shut down all things government have infected the popular square with anger and depression.

Lately there have been several articles about the serious decline in the number of people voting in midterm elections. Invariably it is attributed to the belief that your vote doesn't count. The relatively strong turnout in the Obama years is attributed to minority turnout for a black candidate.

Partly right and partly wrong. I think Obama stirred something deeper than race. He stirred a feeling of optimism. That we could find our better nature and act on it. The decline in voting is indicative of a deep disillusionment. Not only do we believe that  our vote not count, but neither does our optimism. The sour, the mean, the angry, the unpleasant keep winning. This is the Reagan legacy. The GOP only remembers a fragment of his message.

11:58 AM PT: This is not a tribute to Reagan. As I said, he was a disaster. What I am saying is that the one thing from his mythical reputation that the GOP does not emulate is his optimism. Note, I said MYTHICAL reputation. My point is that the GOP has become a negative, sour, ugly, nasty throng and that their mood has infected the populace and turned our national mood into a sour unhappy place. Just like the murder of one its stars ruined Hello Dolly for me, the GOP negativity has ruined the electoral process for much of the electorate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” Frederick Buechner (born 1926);

    by vickijean on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:07:34 AM PDT

  •  Reagan was a false-front... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jon Sitzman

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:12:33 AM PDT

  •  One of the things I like best about Obama (5+ / 0-)

    is his sense of humor. His grin, particularly when he has made a joke at his own expense.
    His optimism about bi-partisanship has been a fatal flaw but if he had not tried to bring his opposition into the deals we wouldn't be able to point to his attempts when they lie about how he's impossible to work with.
    Clue (for the GOP): He's only impossible to work with if you won't negotiate in the first place, ni?

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:31:07 AM PDT

  •  That pinko Reagan? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jon Sitzman

    Restrictions on Japanese car imports, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    More here.

    "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

    by Utahrd on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:39:00 AM PDT

    •  Sigh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      petral

      This is not a tribute to Reagan. As I said, he was a disaster. What I am saying is that the one thing from his mythical reputation that the GOP does not emulate is his optimism. Note, I said MYTHICAL reputation. My point is that the GOP has become a negative, sour, ugly, nasty throng and that their mood has infected the populace and turned our national mood into a sour unhappy place. Just like the murder of one its stars ruined Hello Dolly for me, the GOP negativity has ruined the electoral process for much of the electorate.

      “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” Frederick Buechner (born 1926);

      by vickijean on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:57:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remember: much of the high-profile races have been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jon Sitzman, petral

    Thug on Thug in Thug states.  As a imo FP article mentioned the 'decline in turnout' this year has been a largely Thug affair.

    That could well mean this years midterm could be one for the records, esply with Thugs doing all they can to galvanize AA and Latino votes for Ds.

    We're not going to know what this looks like until October, and maybe not even till November.  An election decided on election day... what a concept. :)

  •  the tipping point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vickijean, RamblinDave

    i understand your "hopeful" point.  And, in many ways those photo op symbols ARE important in electability, in perceptions.  
    It is , i believe, important to see the Reagan/ Carter divide as a symbolic tipping point.  A super intelligent, caring visionary , Carter understood early on the high economic and environmental price of the world's oil addiction.  He tried mightily to extricate the US from an "Israel can do no wrong" stance.  He wanted the country to be an example to the rest of the globe of what caring, compassionate , scientific literate, eco-friendly , fair government could look like.  
    America voted him out.
    We began to listen to the messages of fear: "the welfare queen" mythology.   The incredible missed opportunities of the Gorbachev era. The anti unionist messages.  The glorification of corporate raiders.  I suspect [but have not researched] that this began the 'corporate inversion' movement.   And Reagan took down the solar panels from the white house.
    America  voted him in a second time.
    So began a long slide.
    Yet- even today , Reagan is media portrayed as some kind of heroic , uniting, conquering figure. Wow... Time to take off the fawning glasses kids and see this guy as the Complete Loser he was- the epitome of oligarch privilege, the stupid Poser of Imperial American foreign policy, the Satanic divisor of our citizenry, the master of Anti Science/anti Intellectualism... and he will be remembered as the symbol of all our lost opportunities....pathetic

    •  Yes but even more important (0+ / 0-)

      We have to find something to turn the tide of negativity around.

      “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.” Frederick Buechner (born 1926);

      by vickijean on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 05:05:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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