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Did George W. Bush Destroy Reaganism?:
Over at Balkinization, Jack Balkin argues that the George W. Bush presidency "destroyed Reaganism":
Bush has . . . overseen the cracking of Ronald Reagan's successful coalition of southern former Democrats, white working class ethnics, defense hawks, free market conservatives, and religious conservatives. Reagan could appeal to all of these elements of the party, but Bush's Presidency has been unable to keep all of them happy. Had Bush's war on terror (including the Iraq war) been successful, he might have kept most of the coalition together even though he simultaneously increased the size of government, downplayed coded racial appeals that brought in the South, supported immigration reform, ran up large deficits, and offered only modest and symbolic achievements to religious conservatives. But his policy failures made this impossible.

Bush's failed presidency has left the Republicans scrambling to reconstitute the Reagan coalition. The wide range of different candidates-- from Giuliani to Romney to McCain to Huckabee to Paul-- offer different solutions. We don't yet know how the coalition will be reassembled, and under whose leadership. However, as of the day of the New Hampshire primary, it looks like putting it back together will be a tall order. And although the eventual nominee will try to assume the mantle of Ronald Reagan-- and, equally important, not the mantle of George W. Bush-- the Republican party will have been changed forever by the events of the last eight years.

Although Ronald Reagan will still be regarded with fondness by the Republicans for generations to come, George W. Bush will have effectively destroyed Reaganism. The Republicans will have to start over with a different mix of concerns, agendas and appeals. This is George W. Bush's single greatest achievement. This is one reason, although not the only reason, why he ranks high (or low) among the country's failed presidents-- not only did his policies fail, but he also took the winning coalition that brought him into office down with him.

And that is why, if, like many Americans, you think that change is coming, and you think that this is a good thing, you should tip your hat to George W. Bush and his eventful presidency. For if Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, George W. Bush is the Great Destroyer of Coalitions.
  I am a law professor, not a political analyst, but I tend to disagree. To be sure, Bush's many unforced errors over the last seven years is hurting the Republican nominees. But Bush's unpopularity hasn't "destroyed Reaganism." To the contrary, it seems to have made the Republican party more committed to Reagan's ideas and coalitions and more suspicious of alternatives. Indeed, all of the Republican candidates are clamoring to be considered the next Ronald Reagan. While some of the candidates struggle to do this, that's a reflection of their personal limitations rather than a lack of interest within the GOP in Reagan's approach and ideas.

  Time will tell how these things will play out, and anything can happen. At the same time, I tend to doubt that the Bush Presidency will cause a long-term shift in the major coalitions and ideas driving the GOP.
byomtov (mail):
Is "Reaganism" a set of ideas or is it a coalition, or is it possibly just a cult of personality around Reagan? It seems to me that the question of whether Bush destroyed Reaganism hinges on the answer to that.
1.8.2008 1:07pm
Randy R. (mail):
I guess first we have to define Reaganism. To the extent that Reagan put together a coalition of many disparate groups, including the religious right, anti-communists, racists, 'get gov't off my back' types, gun enthusiasts, anti-abortionists, fiscal conservatives, anti-enviros, anti-Carterites, and the like, he was a success. But it was a cobbling together of so many different interests that makes anyone question whether they could stay under one roof for so long.

Had Bush been better, he could have delayed this unraveling, perhaps. But Reaganism was something that happened a long time ago — it ended in 1988. (Some could argue it ended in 1992). That's about 20 years ago. To assume the world will stand still for 20 years is highly problematic.
1.8.2008 1:07pm
Justin (mail):
Agree with byotov.
1.8.2008 1:14pm
cboldt (mail):
The only way one could conclude that "Reaganism has been seriously damaged" is to hypothesize a reincarnation of Reagan, and having the reincarnation fail to establish a similar coalition the second time around.

.

The fact that other candidates are unable to convince the public to coalesce as it did around Ronald Reagan does not mean that such a coalition is no longer possible.
1.8.2008 1:19pm
Mr. X (www):
When the candidate with views most similar to Reagan, one of only four Congressman to support him in 1976 over Gerald Ford, is excluded from a debate by Fox News and dismissed as a kook by the Republican establishment, it's a sign that George W. Bush has killed Reaganism.
1.8.2008 1:21pm
cboldt (mail):
-- When the candidate with views most similar to Reagan, one of only four Congressman to support him in 1976 over Gerald Ford, is excluded from a debate by Fox News and dismissed as a kook by the Republican establishment, it's a sign that George W. Bush has killed Reaganism. --
.

Heheh. I just realized that "Reaganism" can have radically different meanings. In one, the way I took it, it was whether or not there is a body public of large enough size that would welcome the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, and reelect him on the same platform he used the first time around.

.

But, another way is to ask whether or not the GOP represents a similar platform -- and looked at that way, I would say that the GOP rejects the platform that Reagan ran on. The GOP is just a different flavor of big federal government status quo.
1.8.2008 1:26pm
PersonFromPorlock:
But which of the current crop of would-be nominees can we imagine saying "Government isn't the solution; government is the problem?" Thompson, maybe, or Hunter if we don't worry about viability. But for the rest of them, and especially for the Republican party as an institution, this statement is no longer operative.
1.8.2008 1:26pm
Clem (mail):
As issues that are important to society change, political coalitions must change. Issues that brought supporters of Reagan together do not define the political debate as they once did. Republicans and Democrats must adapt to this change to maintain influence in the political debate. Bush did not cause this change, he merely failed to appreciate it.
1.8.2008 1:30pm
Mr. X (www):
But which of the current crop of would-be nominees can we imagine saying "Government isn't the solution; government is the problem?" Thompson, maybe, or Hunter if we don't worry about viability. But for the rest of them, and especially for the Republican party as an institution, this statement is no longer operative.


Umm, Ron Paul. Have you not been paying attention?
1.8.2008 1:32pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Agreed with byomtov. Also, things depend on whether one sees Reagan as standing for reduction in government, or just for anti-government rhetoric. Considering that the actual highlights of Reaganism were cutting the top marginal income tax rate while jacking up the payroll tax, upping the ante in the War on Drugs, spending lots more money on exploding devices, invading Latin America, and giving us enormous budget deficits, it's hard to see the anti-government parts of Reaganism as more than empty rhetoric.
1.8.2008 1:36pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Under Reagan the federal government grew just as it did under Bush. Taxes were cut for the wealthy.
1.8.2008 1:38pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Eli - exactly. The problem is that people are confusing cutting (some) taxes with cutting government.
1.8.2008 1:40pm
Aultimer:
If Reaganism is the collection of listed factions, I'd say it's done unless McCain is the nominee.

Huckabee is the only candidate who can keep the religious conservatives in, and if he gets the nomination he'll chase the free market conservatives out (to Bloomberg, I guess). Mitt thinks he can keep the religious right, but the "my JC is bigger than your JC" squabbling is fatal. Rudy is plain unacceptable to that bloc. Paul (assuming he's electable) might be ok with the religious and free marketeers, but not the hawks.
1.8.2008 1:51pm
Anderson (mail):
made the Republican party more committed to Reagan's ideas

Count me among the skeptical. Reagan's great strength was how easily disparate people could project their own values upon him. He had about as few ideas as Henry James.

I think JB overstates the case, but it's been interesting to see the course of the GOP since Reagan. It seems to me that old-school Republicans were crowded out by young right-wingers who, whether evangelicals or not, were evangelical in their embrace of Reagan.

The bizarre reaction of these wounded faithful to the relatively moderate liberalism of Bill Clinton was weird, weird, weird. It seems as if they'd convinced themselves that God had ordained that America be Republican forever.

Now these insurgents are ruling the GOP, having found in Dubya their hopes of another Reagan. The catch is, Reagan was never a Reaganite. He was an old-school Republican who could endorse awful policies without thinking much about them, but who never really drank the Kool-Aid that his fans swigged. Reagan's fundamental decency (as a leader, I pass over his family life in silence) is what's so conspicuously missing from the 2008 candidates, with the possible exceptions of McCain (himself a dinosaur) and Thompson (who doesn't really want the job &would rather be back on the set).
1.8.2008 1:52pm
Anderson (mail):
Huckabee is the only candidate who can keep the religious conservatives in, and if he gets the nomination he'll chase the free market conservatives out

I think Huckabee will amaze you in his eagerness to serve both God and Mammon.
1.8.2008 1:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
Reagan was a product of the Cold War. We're in a new struggle similar to the cold war now, but a majority of Americans don't appear to take it too seriously.

Reagan's ideas and policies on economics are now copied widely outside of the United States. We currently have higher marginal tax rates than most of the countries in Europe.

The fact that Government continued to grow under Reagan can be blamed on the Democratic party. They controlled the House for the entire Reagan era.

George W. Bush never ran on the Reagan record. His compassionate conservatism came before fiscal restraint. This hurts the Republicans, but not the Republican message.
1.8.2008 1:58pm
frankcross (mail):
Just to correct the factual record, it was not the Democrats that caused government to continue to grow under Reagan. The increased budget was overwhelmingly military, and the budgets proposed by Reagan were no more balanced than those adopted by a Dem Congress.
1.8.2008 2:15pm
Anderson (mail):
We're in a new struggle similar to the cold war now, but a majority of Americans don't appear to take it too seriously.

Maybe because (1) the Cold War was largely a fantasy, and (2) so is your "new struggle."

The fact that Government continued to grow under Reagan can be blamed on the Democratic party. They controlled the House for the entire Reagan era.

And commanded a 2/3 majority in both houses, thus overriding his relentless vetoes? Come on, sir.
1.8.2008 2:18pm
Bart (mail):
Reagan conservatism is so much a part of our governance that it seems many here cannot recall the change he wrought.

Reagan conservatism is:

1) Lower and flatter marginal tax rates on income and capital gains. None of the Dems are even suggesting returning to the EU style punitive system which existed prior to Reagan. The Clinton increase and the Bush decrease in rates were playing around the margins.

2) Free trade. Clinton largely finished the Reagan free trade project. The Dems slow down the free trade movement, but have not stopped it and are not talking about adopting protectionism.

3) Modifying government regulations to maximize economic freedom. For example, the government has essentially adopted the Bork view of curbed anti trust law. The Dems do not appear to be interested in trust busting. Also, the Courts are much friendlier to reversing junk science based administrative regulations.

4) Market delivery of government services. This is common on the state and increasingly at the federal level. The otherwise radical left greens have taken to carbon credits like fish to water.

5) Originalism in the Courts. This has become the defacto standard now. Even liberal professors like Jack Balkin are attempting to adopt originalism as their own.

6) A muscular offensive foreign policy which imposed regime change to spread democracy. Even the domestic policy focused Clinton Administration did this in Haiti and Bosnia/Kosovo. However, Vietnam style Dem isolationism is in full bloom again, so this pillar of foreign policy may be challenged.
1.8.2008 2:21pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Orin, you are right. You are NOT a political analyst. :-)

It is true all the candidates are clamoring to pretend they're the next Reagan. But, although they eschew his name they are, with the exception of Paul, unwilling to denounce Bush. Since Bush has been the biggest spender, both domestically and militarily, since LBJ, there is a natural tension here. THAT is how Bush has destroyed Reaganism, by making the Republican candidates seem so disingenuous (I mean, even more so than is usual for a politician) when they claim to be following Reagan's guidance. (Some simple examples: Reagan called for closing down the Departments of Energy and Education. Who besides Paul talks of this today? Reagan opposed government entitlement programs. Bush started the biggest one ever, pharmaceuticals for seniors. Which Republican candidates denounce him for that?)
1.8.2008 2:26pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
Bart—originalism is the de facto standard among legal academics now. In the courts, much less so. Up at SCOTUS, even Scalia's originalism tends to rear its head only when he likes the results. And influential Reagan-appointed jurists in the lower courts like Posner and Kozinski are about as results-oriented as you can get.
1.8.2008 2:28pm
Anderson (mail):
Bart's list is not a bad one, except for (6) -- please list for me the nations to which America brought democracy by regime change. The *goodness* of (1)-(5) is of course disputable.

"Market delivery of gov't services," for instance, is a euphemism for sweetheart deals with entities that provide inferior services on the public's dime, and which channel some of their profits into the re-election of their political patrons.

On free trade, as on welfare, Clinton did indeed fulfill some of the Reagan Era's promises. Future historians may well regard Clinton's terms as a continuation of the Reagan years ... ironically, in view of the fanatics who saw Clinton as the Great Liberal Satan.
1.8.2008 2:29pm
Mr. X (www):
Paul (assuming he's electable) might be ok with the religious and free marketeers, but not the hawks.


Which President withdrew U.S. forces from Lebanon?
1.8.2008 2:32pm
Kazinski:
It is just Balkin's wishful thinking. The vast majority of Republicans believe in a robust national defense, low taxes, smaller government, and for the most part free markets. The problem is the miniscule faction of Republicans that do believe in big government comprise about 90% of Republican elected officials.

Ron Paul isn't a Reaganite if he does not believe in a strong national defense.
1.8.2008 2:34pm
Kent G. Budge (mail) (www):
"Reagan's fundamental decency (as a leader, I pass over his family life in silence)..."

Can you say paralipsis? I knew you could.
1.8.2008 2:38pm
Mr. X (www):
Ron Paul isn't a Reaganite if he does not believe in a strong national defense.


As a military veteran himself, Ron Paul does believe in a strong national defense.

What he doesn't believe in is sending American soldiers overseas to die in preemptive wars and senseless nation-building projects.

Perhaps this explains why he received more donations from members of the military than any other candidate.
1.8.2008 2:41pm
Mark T (mail) (www):
Professor Balkin's point seems more to be that Bush's failures have made it impossible for the Reagan coalition to remain intact. He is almost certainly correct about this, although I suspect McCain (with an appropriate VP nominee to heal wounds with the evangelicals) or maybe Thompson could cobble the coalition together for one more election- but even they won't be able to keep it together enough to actually win unless Hillary makes a comeback.

In terms of Reagan's ideas- the candidates all pay homage to him, but the invocation of his name has come to have no substantive meaning- it's just a way of bolstering one's own ideas. None make a particularly good match. Paul is probably most similar thematically (though not nearly as much an optimist as Reagan), while I suspect McCain or Thompson would have the most similar style of governance. Romney is just a competent Bush, or a younger, handsomer Cheney- take your pick. And Giuliani is Nixon, part deux.
1.8.2008 2:44pm
Smokey:
Even more than in Reagan's day, candidates today are bidding to give away the [unrepresented] taxpayers' earnings to a myriad of genuinely undeserving special interests. I'm not a Republican, but this quote still strikes a chord:

Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15th.

~ Ronald Reagan
1.8.2008 2:46pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Reagan conservatism is so much a part of our governance that it seems many here cannot recall the change he wrought.


I don't know how much of the list can be attributed to Ronald Regan but I think you're right that the political landscape has changed immensely since Regan was first elected. There's a Seventh one that should be added -- no more price controls.

While Bush has rightfully been criticized for much of the increase in domestic spending, he has resisted the call for regulation of prices in the energy, financial, and pharmaceutical sectors. Even Bush's biggest domestic program Medicare Part D was quasi-market in nature in that instead of imposing price controls like the Democrats wanted on pharmaceuticals and limiting the number of drugs available, it offered a wider variety of drugs and used competition to keep the prices manageable.
1.8.2008 2:49pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
***because (1) the Cold War was largely a fantasy, and (2) so is your "new struggle."***

and no wonder the Democrats became the party of the minority in the second half of the twentieth century...

<i>***please list for me the nations to which America brought democracy by regime change.***

oh, you know, Germany, Japan, France, Austria, South Korea, Greece, Yugoslavia - and Iraq. Just those small little places, like the first two, the second and third largest economies in the world. Ever heard of 'em?
1.8.2008 2:50pm
Anderson (mail):
Can you say paralipsis? I knew you could.

If it was good enough for Cicero, it's certainly good enough for Anderson.
1.8.2008 2:51pm
Anderson (mail):
Dearest Roundhead:

(1) The "Cold War" was sold to America as resistance to Soviet aggression and expansionism. We now know that the Soviets were crippled by WW2, desperately needed to rebuild their country, and were in no shape to Take.Over.The.WORLD!!! as we were regularly advised they were prepared and plotting to do. They were scared to death of the U.S. and our nuclear weapons.

(2) I was unaware that Reagan, or either Bush, had liberated "Germany, Japan, France, Austria, South Korea, Greece, Yugoslavia." As for Iraqi democracy ....
1.8.2008 2:55pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

Just to correct the factual record, it was not the Democrats that caused government to continue to grow under Reagan. The increased budget was overwhelmingly military, and the budgets proposed by Reagan were no more balanced than those adopted by a Dem Congress.


The budgets that Regan proposed were traditionally declared "DOA" by Speaker TIP O'Neal. Reagan went along with the domestic spending increases the Democrats wanted to get the Military increases he wanted. The responsibility for the increases in spending has to be shared.
1.8.2008 2:56pm
Anderson (mail):
OT, does anyone else experience difficulty getting the VC to load? The top banner and the advert will load but leave the rest of the page blank, leading me to suspect a problem with the advert-blog interface.

Just wondering ... it's so pervasive I take it for granted. Maybe a Conspirator could post on the subject &get a thread going to see if anyone else has the problem.
1.8.2008 3:08pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
"Anderson" -

1 - the Soviets were so preoccupied with "rebuilding their country" that they conquered much of Eastern Europe... hmmm, interesting argument.

2- your statement was about "America", which I don't know, I don't take to be synonymous with "Reagan and Bush"...

try again...
1.8.2008 3:18pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
ChrisIowa: agreed that the responsibility for spending increases under Reagan has to be shared between him and the Congress. But Reagan still wasn't really in the business of fighting for cuts in spending. He could have chosen to aggressively veto appropriations bills because they spent too much, but he was much more interested in cutting top-bracket taxes and jacking up military spending.
1.8.2008 3:20pm
Anderson (mail):
1 - the Soviets were so preoccupied with "rebuilding their country" that they conquered much of Eastern Europe... hmmm, interesting argument.

The Soviets conquered Eastern Europe in the course of defeating the Nazis. I would suggest that you update your historical reading to events after the English Civil War.

2- your statement was about "America", which I don't know, I don't take to be synonymous with "Reagan and Bush"...

Bart credited Reagan with "a muscular offensive foreign policy which imposed regime change to spread democracy," and my query was expressly directed to this assertion.

But I *am* glad you don't see "America" as synonymous with "Reagan and Bush" -- you are doing better than is much of the Republican base.
1.8.2008 3:23pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):


Bart's list is not a bad one, except for (6) -- please list for me the nations to which America brought democracy by regime change.

Soviet Empire, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few. Then there was the wave of democracy which followed suit in South America and Asia.

The *goodness* of (1)-(5) is of course disputable.
\
I do not want to get into an ideological argument. I merely wanted to offer a thumbnail sketch of the sea change Reagan wrought in governance in this country and indeed around the world.

I started college in 1979 with professors teaching me Keynes, saying that government management of the economy as in Japan and Europe was the future, lecturing that socialism was inevitable, and claiming that places like Latin America were not capable of democracy. Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda were touring universities campaigning for "economic democracy" - worker takeover of companies. Jimmy Carter was telling us to get over our inordinate fear of communism and that we should learn to live with the Soviet Empire.

That all seems do 1970s now - more than slightly goofy.
1.8.2008 3:24pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
And Giuliani is Nixon, part deux.

How dare you smear the good name of Richard M. Nixon! (And I'm only partially kidding.)
1.8.2008 3:26pm
Anderson (mail):
Soviet Empire, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few.

I rest my case.
1.8.2008 3:32pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
Anderson, your statement was about which states *America* imposed democracy by regime change. That is what I was addressing. Again, why are you conflating America with Reagan and Bush?

Thanks, you know I need to get caught up on my reading - I've read, for instance, that the Soviets conquered much of Eastern Europe in 1944-45, and DIDN'T impose democracy; nor yet did they allow these countries to have (to use a catch-phrase so beloved by the left) "self-determination" - just ask the Hungarians in 1956, the Czechs in '68, the Poles in 1981, not to mention the E. Germans in 1953. Of course, that doesn't mention the Baltic countries and others in Central Asia that fell under Stalin the Terrible's thumb.

Really, do we need to reinvent the wheel here?
1.8.2008 3:33pm
Anderson (mail):
As for the rest of Bart's comment, again, he does have a point -- though, partly inspired by my current re-reading of War and Peace, I would submit that "Reaganism" was an inevitable swing of the pendulum away from the New Deal mentality that was itself a reaction to the previous conservatism.

That is, it would've happened with or without Reagan, who would've made a wonderful Tolstoy character.
1.8.2008 3:38pm
BGates:
The Soviets conquered Eastern Europe in the course of defeating the Nazis.
And stayed there for another 45 years. One could almost call that aggressive expansionism, though I guess to say they were trying to take over the world there would have to be some evidence of Soviet involvement in revolutionary movements in Latin America, Africa, southeast Asia, the Middle East, and, oh, I dunno, Afghanistan.
1.8.2008 3:38pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Bush has . . . overseen the cracking of Ronald Reagan's successful coalition of southern former Democrats, white working class ethnics, defense hawks, free market conservatives, and religious conservatives

Fog closes Channel - Continent cut off

As the early comments said, it's less a coalition than different groups that agreed on a few key things (like Reagan.) Many might have been together in voting against Clinton's successor; right now there is no one non-Bush rallying point.

Houston Lawyer said
Reagan was a product of the Cold War. We're in a new struggle similar to the cold war now, but a majority of Americans don't appear to take it too seriously.

We've got a non-shooting enemy like then, but it's a very different kind of enemy, and we're carrying out the not-a-war a lot differently. But this got me thinking: Did anybody think the Cold War was winnable before Reagan? (We did win, didn't we?)
1.8.2008 3:43pm
Morat20 (mail):
Reagan's just a name. A shiny cloak for a candidate to wear.

It's nostalgia, and nothing more.
1.8.2008 3:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It is true all the candidates are clamoring to pretend they're the next Reagan. But, although they eschew his name they are, with the exception of Paul, unwilling to denounce Bush.
Do you not remember Reagan's Eleventh Commandment?
1.8.2008 3:47pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Reagan is widely and accurately regarded (outside the U.S., especially) as having behaved like a Keynesian in practice, despite his hiring of various Chicago school economists and advisors. He engaged in massive regulatory and tax favoritism toward corporate America and wealthy individuals and helped increase payroll taxes (as one commenter has already pointed out), as well as taxing future generations through massive deficit spending, effectively redistributing wealth from the poor. In foreign policy, while he did bully the Soviet Union into perhaps early collapse (mostly by outspending them in the arms race, though he should be given credit for negotiating arms treaties too), the gaps in the historical record are increasingly being filled in to make it look like the USSR was a house of cards long before Reagan ever came to power (to be fair, this was not generally known at the time and only predicted by a few prescient thinkers, such as Richard Pipes). No need to dwell on the many unseemly aspects of his foreign policy, such as Iran-Contra and the financing of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In domestic policy, he coddled the religious right and (as part of same) essentially ignored the emergence of the AIDS epidemic at a time when government intervention might have done something crucially helpful, stepped up the failed and wasteful war on drugs, and otherwise helped encourage nefarious government meddling in citizens' personal lives while ignoring some fairly serious social problems. One bright spot in his domestic record was his farseeing recognition that immigrants are a net boon to America and his IRCA amnesty (W. has been unable to replicate this success, because of the know-nothing and populist wing of his party).

In this sense, I think George W. is pretty much the political heir to Reagan, as he has continued these policies, but removed any taint of Reagan's professed principles. The difference is that W. has less ability to command or compromise with Congress and seems to have little comprehension of how not to get completely embroiled in a regional war with no clear exit strategy. He has breathed free-market rhetoric while spending like a drunken sailor, in an even more stunning example of hypocrisy than Reagan's. He actually managed to lead a coalition to personally invade the lives of the family of a single brain dead woman . . . need I go on?
1.8.2008 3:48pm
Anderson (mail):
Sigh. This is not the place for me to teach a seminar on the Cold War, for which I am professionally unqualified though tempermentally suited ....

(1) Yes, the Soviets *stayed* in eastern Europe. That is not evidence of intent to move beyond the 1945 borders. Having been invaded at great cost twice in 30 years, they were going to keep a great big buffer of satellite states.

Had we considered this a bad thing at the time, we could've gone all-out to invade northern Europe in 1943, which we did not, b/c we were (a) rightly scared of the German army, and (b) happy to see Russians dying to kill Germans. How did we get out of history's bloodiest war with only 300,000 dead? That's how.

(2) The Soviets were happy to fund insurgencies, just like the U.S. was. However, I think that our record of knocking off democratically-elected regimes in those parts of the world will bear respectable comparison with the Soviets' record.

Afghanistan of course was a simple, senseless land grab, uncharacteristic of postwar Soviet policy, and the exception that proves the rule -- it did plenty to bring down the Evil Empire.
1.8.2008 3:51pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
1 - the Soviets were so preoccupied with "rebuilding their country" that they conquered much of Eastern Europe... hmmm, interesting argument.

The Soviets conquered Eastern Europe in the course of defeating the Nazis. I would suggest that you update your historical reading to events after the English Civil War.
The Soviets occupied Eastern Europe in the course of defeating the Nazis. And the U.S. did the same for Western Europe for the same reasons. You may have missed it -- Gerald Ford did, after all -- but the Soviet treatment of Eastern Europe wasn't quite the same as the American treatment of France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands...

You may have also missed China, North Korea, Vietnam...
1.8.2008 3:52pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Had we considered this a bad thing at the time, we could've gone all-out to invade northern Europe in 1943, which we did not, b/c we were (a) rightly scared of the German army, and (b) happy to see Russians dying to kill Germans. How did we get out of history's bloodiest war with only 300,000 dead? That's how.
Or because FDR foolishly trusted Stalin.
1.8.2008 3:55pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
*This is not the place for me to teach a seminar on the Cold War, for which I am professionally unqualified though tempermentally suited*

got that right, bro' - these are points simply out of Soviet propaganda -

I mean, using several European countries as suzerainties shows no "intent to go beyond the 1945 borders"? Do you even realize what you're saying?

Which country was it that was going to invade the Soviet Union after 1945? Germany? Poland? Czechoslovakia? Serbia? Do tell.

Invade northern Europe in 1943? So the Allies would start their anti-nazi campaign by conquering... Sweden? Man, you are confused.

And the U.S. got out of the war with "only" 300,000 dead because 1 - the U.S. didn't start the war; 2 - didn't join it until two and a half years after its beginning 3 - its territory was not in the path of war...

Of course, the heroic Soviets, under Stalin the Terrible undertook such heroic actions as imprisoning in the Gulag those soldiers that had the temerity to be taken prisoner by the enemy...

I see, we really do have to reinvent the wheel...
1.8.2008 4:01pm
Anderson (mail):
David, we're not arguing whether the Soviets were bad -- of course they were. We're arguing whether the "Cold War" was a genuine threat of Soviet world domination, which it certainly was not.

China did not go Communist as part of some Soviet plot. As history showed, Chinese communism was a very different species. My own two cents is that "communism" amounted to a superstructure of foolish economics on top of a native authoritarian trend in both countries. (As for NK and Vietnam, they were sideshows, where Soviet support was largely given for the same reasons we supported the Islamists in Afghanistan -- nuisance value.)

FDR made some mistakes, and Stalin was one of them. However, Churchill was not much better. The fact was that World War 2, in Europe, was largely a war between Germany and Russia, and there wasn't a helluva lot we cared to do about it.

The Republicans were not frothing at the mouth for us to invade France ASAP and save the lives of who knows how many Russians. Neither were the Dems -- you will recall Truman's famous remark that he would prefer if Germany and Russia could both lose.

As for the American public in general, I suspect that, had FDR announced a policy of "Japan First," it would've been warmly embraced.
1.8.2008 4:02pm
Aultimer:

[Regan imposed democracy by regime change!]
[Where did the US impose democracy by regime change?]
oh, you know, Germany, Japan, France, Austria, South Korea, Greece, Yugoslavia - and Iraq. Just those small little places, like the first two, the second and third largest economies in the world. Ever heard of 'em?


Is Regan the new Chuck Norris or are you picking nits with the wording of the question? If the former, Regan was definately the first man on the moon, and he did it without a space suit.
1.8.2008 4:02pm
Anderson (mail):
I mean, using several European countries as suzerainties shows no "intent to go beyond the 1945 borders"? Do you even realize what you're saying?

By 1945 borders, I meant where the Red Army was in charge at the close of hostilities.

I don't justify Soviet paranoia or their tyranny over eastern Europe -- the point was whether Soviet expansionism was at the root of the "Cold War." The power that the Soviets feared was of course the U.S., with its NATO allies. That was not very sensible, but given our relative strengths, it was at least more sensible than our own fear of the Soviets.

If you want to see what an expansionist power looks like, try Germany, 1866-1945, or for that matter, the Russian Empire up through 1914. The Soviet Union doesn't compare.
1.8.2008 4:08pm
John McCall (mail):
Orin, these appear to be your substantive points:
1) The candidates are all declaring themselves the ideological reincarnations of Reagan.
2) ???
3) Therefore Reaganism is not dead.

The most plausible conclusion from (1) is that the candidates believe, rightly, that Republicans still revere the legacy of Ronald Reagan. Claiming the mantle of respected figures of the past has been a staple of oratory since Mark Antony; it's group politics, not policy treatise.

As it happens, I think Reaganism still has a lot of currency in the Republican Party, or at least in its rhetoric. Bush's foreign policy, which every candidate but Paul has endorsed, is not at all dissimilar to Reagan's, except that Reagan pursued diplomacy more actively — well, at least with the U.S.S.R. Reagan's hands-off approach to regulation is still current. Reagan's fiscal restraint is, well, debatable, which also applies to the candidates. Reagan's wilingness to actually shrink the government is also debatable, but at least he had specific proposals; I agree with Thoughtful, no-one in the race but Paul would countenance the elimination of the federal Department of Education.

Does any of that mean Reaganism is alive? I think that question devolves into a silly discussion, along the lines of "What Would Reagan Do?". The political environment has changed in twenty years, as it has in every country in every era. Some of Reagan's views have become predominant; some of Reagan's views are no longer relevant, unless you believe the War in Iraq is directly analogous to the Cold War. If Reagan were still alive, "Reaganism" would undoubtedly have morphed to follow his opinions, as it surely did during his administration. But ultimately, that inquiry just devolves into Reagan fanboyism, and there's no sense pretending that that's a rational process.
1.8.2008 4:09pm
Smokey:
Anderson:
(1) The "Cold War" was sold to America as resistance to Soviet aggression and expansionism. We now know that the Soviets were crippled by WW2, desperately needed to rebuild their country, and were in no shape to Take.Over.The.WORLD!!!
That is pure historical revisionism. Having grown up during the Cold War - and practiced getting under my desk at school in preparation for a Soviet nuclear attack - I strongly dispute the wrongheaded implication that were it not for the U.S., the Soviets would have unilaterally ceased their territorial expansionism. As we know, Greece and Italy were next on their targeted list.

As for (2), your strawman fails.

What really irks me about libs is that they look at America as always being in the wrong. In fact, we are the best -- and that attitude is what steamrollered Reagan over the opposition [well, over the thoroughly inept, foolish and bumbling Jimmuh Carter, anyway. But I digress, huh?].
1.8.2008 4:10pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
all right Anderson, I see your point - I guess. You're wrong, but nevertheless...

*[Regan imposed democracy by regime change!]*
*[Where did the US impose democracy by regime change?]*
oh, you know, Germany, Japan, France, Austria, South Korea, Greece, Yugoslavia - and Iraq. Just those small little places, like the first two, the second and third largest economies in the world. Ever heard of 'em?

Is Regan the new Chuck Norris or are you picking nits with the wording of the question? If the former, Regan was definately the first man on the moon, and he did it without a space suit.*


The statement was, Where did *America* impose democracy by regime change, nothing about Reagan or bush in the original question. I was addressing the original statement. Of course, I could go on and say that, yes, he did impose democracy by regime change in Grenada and Nicaragua, indirectly for the latter.

I know the leftists throughout the world are still crying that the Sandinistas were voted out of office, but there you go...
1.8.2008 4:16pm
Anderson (mail):
Having grown up during the Cold War - and practiced getting under my desk at school in preparation for a Soviet nuclear attack

Not that I expect to persuade Smokey, but that's my point -- senseless hysteria. When was there any real "missile gap," or any basis for imagining that the Soviets would risk a first strike?

America can be, and is, both (1) great and (2) sometimes in the wrong. Grownups have no trouble understanding how this can be so.
1.8.2008 4:16pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

BD: Soviet Empire, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few.

I rest my case.

I would recommend that you read Paul Kengor's "The Crusader" as well as Peter Schweitzer's various works on the subject. The facts that Reagan carried out an offensive foreign policy meant expressly to impose regime change in the Soviet Empire and that the Empire fell as a result of that offensive is really not subject to much debate anymore since the US and old Soviet records from that era have become available to researchers.

As for the rest of Bart's comment, again, he does have a point -- though, partly inspired by my current re-reading of War and Peace, I would submit that "Reaganism" was an inevitable swing of the pendulum away from the New Deal mentality that was itself a reaction to the previous conservatism.

That is, it would've happened with or without Reagan, who would've made a wonderful Tolstoy character.


Reagan did not represent a counter revolution against FDR's social insurance domestic policy and his internationalist foreign policy so much as a revolt against the New Left's Euro style redistribution and isolationism. The only part of FDR's policy which Reagan reversed was the punitive progressive tax code. Reagan actually returned FDR style internationalism and then put it on a war footing.

FDR and Reagan level sea changes in governance require a rare kind of leadership and are hardly examples of "Being There."
1.8.2008 4:20pm
Smokey:
Correction:
I strongly dispute the wrongheaded implication that were it not for the U.S., the Soviets would have unilaterally ceased their territorial expansionism.
Don't know how that got in there. But there it is was.
1.8.2008 4:20pm
WHOI Jacket:
I stopped reading after "coded messages to Southerners". I was born, raised and educated in Georgia. I can't recall the content of those beamed subliminal messages.



Also, the Cold War was a fantasy?! Wow, you might want to tell my entire International Affairs Dept. when I did my psuedominor in it. They were pretty committed to the lie.
1.8.2008 4:25pm
cjwynes (mail):
The one thing that will keep all those groups more or less together in the future is the fact that the Democrats are unwilling to embrace ANY of them to strip them away from the GOP. Even if the only thing Goldwater conservatives and evangelical Christians have in common is the fact that the left-wing elites hate them, that'll be enough to re-combine forces in the future. I don't see the Dems willing to abandon either their love of big government nor their affection for "progressive" social ideas to make a play for either group.

Likewise, I don't see hardly anything the GOP could do that would drive any of their groups away for good. Bush created massive entitlement programs during his first term that should have sent the libertarian wing fleeing in terror, but how many people actually voted for Badnarik to even send a message? Everyone in our Campus Libertarians chapter back in college would SAY they were voting for the LP candidates up until the eve of the election, and then the morning of the election confide in hushed tones that they'd voted GOP as usual.

If the Dems won't accept the evangelicals and the libertarians won't leave no matter how rudely the GOP treats them, how does this result in the coalition being broken?

I think Bart makes a good argument that many Reaganesque ideas are fundamental today, but Reagan's guiding principle that "government can't fix the problem, government IS the problem" doesn't hold much sway in the GOP today.
1.8.2008 4:32pm
Anderson (mail):
Bart, the regulatory and privitizing changes that you listed were directly opposed to the New Deal. I don't think it's possible to argue that Reaganism wasn't a reaction to FDR and his successors.

As for giving Reagan credit for toppling the Soviets, well, I'll confine myself to objecting to one point you make: "is really not subject to much debate anymore." Reagan contributed to it, but by pushing on a doomed structure. And I don't think we've recognized the effects of America's own military spending on our economy since 1980. There's more to European social services than high taxation -- they're not blowing as much on arms and national debt as we are.
1.8.2008 4:33pm
Walt Quist (mail):
I don't have any problems.
1.8.2008 4:38pm
Anderson (mail):
I was born, raised and educated in Georgia. I can't recall the content of those beamed subliminal messages.

Well, that's the point -- if you could remember them, they wouldn't be subliminal, now would they?
1.8.2008 4:39pm
r78:
Perhaps the better way to look at is that Bush did not "destroy" Reaganism, he just took certain of its worst aspects to their logical conclusion, thereby exposing the latent defects of Reaganism.

For example, out of control government spending, the executive branch's casual disregard of the law that was certainly present in North/Poindexter et al. and which logically led to the current excesses of the "unitary executive."

And, while Reagan paid the appropriate lip-service to Christianity, he didn't bother himself too much with observing its rituals. But, now, the Republican field is dominated by people who publicly profess a disbelief in the theory of evolution.

And while Reagan had a true opponent in the Soviet Union, the current pretenders to the presidency must scramble to create an existential threat posed by some aged diabetic guy in a cave somewhere and, the last time I checked, he did not have control of hundreds if ICBMs . . .
1.8.2008 4:49pm
Randy R. (mail):
"the gaps in the historical record are increasingly being filled in to make it look like the USSR was a house of cards long before Reagan ever came to power (to be fair, this was not generally known at the time and only predicted by a few prescient thinkers, such as Richard Pipes). "

Or any thinking American, for that matter. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and all I ever heard about the USSR and the Eastern bloc was about shortages. True, my family is Polish, and we had relatives still there, so perhaps we got more accurate news than the average American. But when a country couldn't produce enough bread for it's own citizens, or sneakers, it simply is in no position to try to take over the US.

Now, of course, the USSR had what appeared to be a strong military. So I understand why people thought that they could invade europe or the US on a purely military basis, or just dump some nuclear bombs upon us. But again, for what purpose? Countries don't just dump bombs on other countries for no reason at all, and I couldn't see any reason why the Soviets would do that. Unless they just wanted to steal our sneakers.

In retrospect, the Cold War was not what it was billed to Americans — it was never a contest between two competing economics or political systems. Of course, it was evil in the worst ways, but a threat to the US? Not very likely. After WWII, just about the only countries that leaned communist where the ones that could be bribed by the Soviets. Once the gravy train ended, so did their support.

It was yet another failure on the CIA to have missed this fact, and it's subsequent collapse.
1.8.2008 4:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
When anyone talks of Reaganism, you must also include his professed dis taste for democracy.

Yes, Ronald Reagan didn't like democracy much at all, and would have rather gotten rid of it.

I distinctly remember that in the early 80s, there was a best seller by a conservative French author who argued that the western powers are in danger of the communists. Why? Because communists were really dictators, and dictators can always move faster than democracies, which are all about talk, debate, and compromise. Stalin didn't have to compromise or dither about anything. So this author argued that western democracies were at a fundamental disadvantage vis-a-vis dictatorships, and that unless we became more like dictatorships, then the communists will be able to roll all over us.

Reagan read the book and quoted it approvingly, which shocked me at the time. (See, there once was a time when frenchmen were highly regarded by conservatives!).

Perhaps it doesn't mean much, as Reagan never attempted any real action towards this, but it should at least be counted as part of his ideology.
1.8.2008 4:54pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
What were those nuclear armed missles doing in Cuba, I wonder? Moon exploration?

I guess Cuba was part of the area where the "Red Army was in charge at the close of hostilities" in 1945.
1.8.2008 4:56pm
Anderson (mail):
What were those nuclear armed missles doing in Cuba, I wonder?

Bob, that's the point. Why did Russia even *need* missiles in Cuba? Because they had no realistic hope of hitting us with missiles launched from home. The missile crisis was caused by Soviet paranoia and desperation, which led them to their stunning miscalculation and failure. You will note that Khrushchev's services were found to be dispensable shortly thereafter.

Put another way, the Soviet missiles were doing the same thing our missiles in Turkey were doing.
1.8.2008 4:59pm
alias:
Perhaps everyone's referring to Reagan's superpowers. It is well-known that, by merely uttering the words "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," he singlehandedly caused the Berlin Wall to spontaneously crumble and set in motion a chain reaction that ended communism everywhere except for China.

GWBush, by contrast, tried the incantation "mission accomplished," hoping to spontaneously cause the death of Osama bin Laden and set in motion a chain reaction that would end militant Islamic fundamentalism worldwide. The incantation failed, and the GOP's search for the next superhero began.

In that light, I think it seems clear Prof. Balkin is arguing that George W. Bush's failure has caused the GOP to give up altogether on the notion that they can find a candidate with superpowers and put him in the White House.

It is that claim that we should evaluate.
1.8.2008 5:04pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

Bart, the regulatory and privitizing changes that you listed were directly opposed to the New Deal. I don't think it's possible to argue that Reaganism wasn't a reaction to FDR and his successors.

Name a single social insurance program which Reagan reversed. There are none. The man used to be an FDR Dem until the Dems went much further left. The saying that "I did not leave the party, the party left me" applies to Reagan and the so called neo cons.

As for giving Reagan credit for toppling the Soviets, well, I'll confine myself to objecting to one point you make: "is really not subject to much debate anymore." Reagan contributed to it, but by pushing on a doomed structure.

We are not really that far apart. When everyone else thought the Soviets stood ten feet tall, Reagan recognized that communism was rotten to the core and only needed to be kicked in. The interesting thing about the books I recommended is that they reveal that much of Reagan's foreign policy team did not believe him when he told them he intended to defeat the USSR.

I reject the view that the USSR would have fallen if we had done nothing. Communism is a bad economic system, but terror managed to hold it together through much worse for decades before Reagan arrived. What Reagan provided was a firm shove over several years.

And I don't think we've recognized the effects of America's own military spending on our economy since 1980. There's more to European social services than high taxation -- they're not blowing as much on arms and national debt as we are.

Our military spending has fallen from around 7% of GDP during Reagan's offensive in the 80s to about 4-5% of GDP (including the wars) of a much larger economy. In contrast, the Soviets were probably spending about a third of their GDP on arms. We are not close to being over extended militarily as were the Soviets.

Indeed, because of the Reagan free market reforms, the US economy has grown about 50% faster that the EU over the past quarter century. The net result is that we are paying for the finest military in the world entirely out of our increased growth where the Euros are rapidly sliding into both economic and military irrelevance.
1.8.2008 5:08pm
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

Bart, the regulatory and privitizing changes that you listed were directly opposed to the New Deal. I don't think it's possible to argue that Reaganism wasn't a reaction to FDR and his successors.

Name a single social insurance program which Reagan reversed. There are none. The man used to be an FDR Dem until the Dems went much further left. The saying that "I did not leave the party, the party left me" applies to Reagan and the so called neo cons.

As for giving Reagan credit for toppling the Soviets, well, I'll confine myself to objecting to one point you make: "is really not subject to much debate anymore." Reagan contributed to it, but by pushing on a doomed structure.

We are not really that far apart. When everyone else thought the Soviets stood ten feet tall, Reagan recognized that communism was rotten to the core and only needed to be kicked in. The interesting thing about the books I recommended is that they reveal that much of Reagan's foreign policy team did not believe him when he told them he intended to defeat the USSR.

I reject the view that the USSR would have fallen if we had done nothing. Communism is a bad economic system, but terror managed to hold it together through much worse for decades before Reagan arrived. What Reagan provided was a firm shove over several years.

And I don't think we've recognized the effects of America's own military spending on our economy since 1980. There's more to European social services than high taxation -- they're not blowing as much on arms and national debt as we are.

Our military spending has fallen from around 7% of GDP during Reagan's offensive in the 80s to about 4-5% of GDP (including the wars) of a much larger economy. In contrast, the Soviets were probably spending about a third of their GDP on arms. We are not close to being over extended militarily as were the Soviets.

Indeed, because of the Reagan free market reforms, the US economy has grown about 50% faster that the EU over the past quarter century. The net result is that we are paying for the finest military in the world entirely out of our increased growth where the Euros are rapidly sliding into both economic and military irrelevance.
1.8.2008 5:08pm
Anderson (mail):
Name a single social insurance program which Reagan reversed. There are none.

Bart, good heavens, you're a difficult man to agree with. The New Deal was more than social insurance -- in fact, social insurance was only a small part.

Government regulation took off under FDR, as did the provision of gov't services.

You are also right about Reagan's foreign policy geniuses, many of whom seem to have feared their doddering president was being tricked by a canny tyrant (Yalta redux). Their suspicion of Shultz was very deep.

My point about military spending isn't that it's close to the staggering Soviet levels, but that it's money we could be putting elsewhere. What we *need* is a rapid response force. What we *have* is a military which still looks as if it's designed to fight on the plains of northern Europe.

The end of the Soviet Union will be debated for centuries, but I disagree that terror could continue to hold it together. A postwar generation that didn't remember the horrors of the Nazi invasion, and had increasing contact with the luxury of the West, was not going to be cowed indefinitely. Dictatorships rely on seeming omniscient and omnipotent, and the Soviets couldn't keep up the facade any more.

Alias - fine snark, sir.
1.8.2008 5:15pm
Cactus Jack:
"The net result is that we are paying for the finest military in the world entirely out of our increased growth where the Euros are rapidly sliding into both economic and military irrelevance."

Hardly. Rather, our government is financing much of our fine military by borrowing vast sums from China rather than out of this "increased growth" you mention. Who will bear the obligation to repay this debt and where it leaves our nation economically and militarily in 30 years as compared to the Euros, I'll leave to the more learned.
1.8.2008 5:24pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Bart:

You make some very defensible points, but the claim that Europe is "sliding into economic irrelevance" can't be taken seriously. I mean, I know it's an article of faith among some on the U.S. right that any type of basic social welfare state must lead to complete economic collapse, but the European Union is doing pretty well on any number of fronts these days.
1.8.2008 5:32pm
Kazinski:
Anderson:
And I don't think we've recognized the effects of America's own military spending on our economy since 1980. There's more to European social services than high taxation — they're not blowing as much on arms and national debt as we are.

I'm glad you recognize the benefits of high military spending to our economy. The huge disparity of long term growth rates between the US and the EU is due as much to our higher military spending as it is to our lower social spending at tax rates. Its all good.
1.8.2008 5:38pm
c.gray (mail):

So I understand why people thought that they could invade europe or the US on a purely military basis, or just dump some nuclear bombs upon us. But again, for what purpose?


Maybe various people thought the USSR might attempt a campaign of conquest their country for the same reason the peace-craving USSR invaded Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania in 1939, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979? Or maybe they just worried the USSR would provide massive amounts of military hardware to their sworn enemies, as in Greece, China, Korea and Vietnam?

Throughout its entire historical existence, the leadership of the USSR never shied away from using military force for purposes of territorial expansion or political intimidation. And it consistently encouraged violent revolutionary movements in every neighbor not controlled by a puppet regime. The western public judged the threat posed by the USSR from the actual actions of Stalin, Kruschev &Brezhnev. The notion they were gulled into those views by propaganda is laughable.

Hell, committed Communists generally understood the USSR's leadership was noxious if they were not directly beholden to it for their own political survival. Or were Tito, Hoxner and Mao all tricked into anti-USSR stances by Western militarist propaganda, too?
1.8.2008 5:43pm
Anderson (mail):
Kazinski, spending on the military-industrial complex isn't without its benefits, but I'd guess the same $$$ invested in education and healthcare would yield no lesser benefits.

Re: the perennial faith in European (economic) decadence, I see that Krugman had some interesting data. As my parens suggest however, this is part of a rhetorical trope going back to the inception of the Republic.
1.8.2008 5:44pm
Bart (mail):
Cactus Jack:

BD: "The net result is that we are paying for the finest military in the world entirely out of our increased growth where the Euros are rapidly sliding into both economic and military irrelevance."

Hardly. Rather, our government is financing much of our fine military by borrowing vast sums from China rather than out of this "increased growth" you mention. Who will bear the obligation to repay this debt and where it leaves our nation economically and militarily in 30 years as compared to the Euros, I'll leave to the more learned.

Let me help you become one of the learned.

Our deficit includes covers all of our government spending, not just our military.

Our deficit is far smaller than our military spending and would not begin to cover it all.

Our deficits as a percentage of GDP are smaller than the Euros'.

China buys our debt because they refuse to buy our goods and need a place to park their dollars.

I am not concerned about the Euros as rivals because they are literally dying off as an economy and perhaps as a civilization as they fail to have enough babies to even replace their current population. BTW, China is in the same boat because of their one child policy. Both areas will have a very large contingent of elderly and not enough kids to care for them.
1.8.2008 5:51pm
PLR:
Our military spending has fallen from around 7% of GDP during Reagan's offensive in the 80s to about 4-5% of GDP (including the wars) of a much larger economy. In contrast, the Soviets were probably spending about a third of their GDP on arms. We are not close to being over extended militarily as were the Soviets.


But it's at least mildly interesting that the rest of the world is not spending stupid amounts of money (more than 50% of discretionary federal spending) on useless military weapons, hardware and facilities to "defend" themselves from imaginary enemies.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

[Best read with Wagner playing in the background].
1.8.2008 5:53pm
Anderson (mail):
Both areas will have a very large contingent of elderly and not enough kids to care for them.

As opposed to a very large contingent of elderly and not enough health care facilities to take care of them, while the kids are out buying a home theater system to put in that room which, a few generations back, would've had Mom in it.

--It's been fun today, folks. See ya!
1.8.2008 5:57pm
ellisz (mail):
Back to Balkin's original point - did Bush kill Reaganism? I'd say no, b/c it assumes there was something to kill.

M Barone made the point recently that many voters do not recall the ailments of the 70s. That decade created the climate for Reagan.

But now there are no 70% tax rates; no Soviet bloc; no stagflation. And so the issues that made Reagan compelling aren't there.

I also think that in modern politics it is much tougher to build a lasting coalition than it was before the advent of mass electronic media and sophisticated polling. The two parties are quick to note any position that polls poorly, and to edge away from it. (Note the mass exodus away from imm reform last year.)
1.8.2008 6:05pm
Bart (mail):
PLR:

That is because most of the rest of the world depends upon us for their security.

This arrangement also provides us with the final word on just about everything.
1.8.2008 6:07pm
DiversityHire:
(1) the Cold War was largely a fantasy
I love the Volokh Conspiracy! Whether you believe great men make history or history makes great men, you can always count on some surrealism from someone @ the VC.

I don't think George W. Bush destroyed Reaganism, I think Bill "the Era of Big Government is Over" Clinton and George "Is Our Children Learnin'" Bush just rode the last few waves of the big-ass set that Reagan rode in on. Looks like theswell has switched &Barack Obama is poised to ride it to shore. I'm having a hard time deciding whether its more enjoyable watching Obama perform or the Clintons struggle in the rip...
1.8.2008 6:10pm
michael (mail) (www):
Re: Reaganism. What were those budgets that were 'DOA'? My impression in the agency I worked for, the VA, was that basically his budget was going to shut it down. So in some sense, it's like my weight loss ideas, after I've just eaten. 'Reaganism' is being 40 pounds lighter or having thought it would be so. This isn't to say that he wasn't a great manager and, really, an importantly simplifying intellectual.
1.8.2008 7:40pm
Public_Defender (mail):

Had Bush's war on terror (including the Iraq war) been successful, he might have kept most of the coalition together even though he simultaneously increased the size of government, downplayed coded racial appeals that brought in the South, supported immigration reform, ran up large deficits, and offered only modest and symbolic achievements to religious conservatives.


"downplayed coded racial appeals that brought in the South," That's something Reagan was really good at. Bush did something similar when he refused to discuss the symbolism of the Confederate Flag. Maybe the country just got sick of it.
1.8.2008 8:08pm
hattio1:

Bob, that's the point. Why did Russia even *need* missiles in Cuba? Because they had no realistic hope of hitting us with missiles launched from home.

Look up the distance between Cuba and Florida. Then look up the distance between Russia and Alaska at their closest points.
1.8.2008 8:11pm
eyesay:
Thales touched on some of the failings of the Reagan administration:
. . . Iran-Contra and the financing of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. . . . essentially ignored the emergence of the AIDS epidemic at a time when government intervention might have done something crucially helpful, stepped up the failed and wasteful war on drugs, and otherwise helped encourage nefarious government meddling in citizens' personal lives while ignoring some fairly serious social problems.
Amazingly, on a Law Blog with now 88 comments, nobody has said anything about Reagan operating within the law. Iran-Contra was more than an "unseemly aspect of his foreign policy." It was a criminal enterprise, breaking at least two major laws: a prohibition against selling arms to Iran and a prohibition against arming the Contras. It was also lying to Congress and to the American people. Iran-Contra was high crimes and misdemeanors. The public did not want to go through another impeachment so soon after Nixon. However, eleven members of the Reagan administration were convicted, and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger avoided trial only because of a pardon by Bush 41.

Doesn't anyone care about the law around here?
1.8.2008 9:28pm
Anderson (mail):
Doesn't anyone care about the law around here?

No.

Then look up the distance between Russia and Alaska at their closest points.

*Then* compare the populations of Alaska and the Eastern seaboard in 1962.
1.8.2008 9:42pm
Zombie Richard Feynman (mail) (www):
Bart:
I am not concerned about the Euros as rivals because they are literally dying off as an economy and perhaps as a civilization as they fail to have enough babies to even replace their current population. BTW, China is in the same boat because of their one child policy. Both areas will have a very large contingent of elderly and not enough kids to care for them.

Wow, that's dumb. I know, I know, there was a book about it. But I'm sorry, culture is not genetic. There is no evidence of a cultural or economic shift taking place in either of those countries, an historically, demographic change has never caused the downfall of a civilization.

Seriously, just cause it follows logically in a vaccume does not mean it works in the real world.
1.8.2008 9:49pm
Mark Bahner (www):
I just realized that "Reaganism" can have radically different meanings. In one, the way I took it, it was whether or not there is a body public of large enough size that would welcome the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, and reelect him on the same platform he used the first time around.


One reason I supported Reagan in 1980 (but not 1984) was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (and the Iranian hostage mess).

If Ronald Reagan were to be reincarnated, today I wouldn't be very afraid of what the Soviet Union might do.

P.S. Also, I would know that reincarnation of Reagan also was not serious about cutting the size of government.
1.8.2008 10:58pm
Mark Bahner (www):
We're in a new struggle similar to the cold war now, but a majority of Americans don't appear to take it too seriously.


Let's see...the Soviet Union and China with many thousands of nuclear weapons (many on warheads capable of hitting the U.S.), and in control of a total population (including Eastern Europe) of well over 1 billion people.

And Muslim fanatics. No nuclear weapons (so far, anyway). And control no governments (right now).

Don't those seem like pretty large differences?
1.8.2008 11:06pm
MarkField (mail):

Look up the distance between Cuba and Florida. Then look up the distance between Russia and Alaska at their closest points.


I don't agree with Anderson's original claim (that the Cold War was a myth), but it must be stronger than I thought if arguments like this are considered meritorious.
1.8.2008 11:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
"When everyone else thought the Soviets stood ten feet tall, Reagan recognized that communism was rotten to the core and only needed to be kicked in."

As I recall, Jimmy Carter called the USSR on the carpet for their human rights violations. He too realized it was rotten to the core.

"I reject the view that the USSR would have fallen if we had done nothing. Communism is a bad economic system, but terror managed to hold it together through much worse for decades before Reagan arrived."

As someone else pointed out, the USSR used force to hold it grip on eastern europe. Contrary to popular belief, the soviet union did NOT invade Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary. They were instead holding on to these satellite countries in the face of rebellions.

Again, this just proves that few people liked living under a communist system. That's undisputable. The only way they could hold its grip on power was through sheer force. Again, undisputable.

And yet, we were afraid that they might invade the US successfully and hold on to us? That's pretty darn stupid. Even if they did try to drop some bombs upon which (which, I note, had never happened at any point during the cold war or any other point), they knew that they would never be able to hold on to all of europe AND the US. And in fact, they never had any plans to invade the US. After the wall fell, if there were any plans, they would have surfaced by now.
1.9.2008 12:04am
Anderson (mail):
I don't agree with Anderson's original claim (that the Cold War was a myth), but it must be stronger than I thought if arguments like this are considered meritorious.

Ah, if only I could be *that* right!

By "largely a fantasy," I meant that the Cold War was sold to us as an existential challenge to the U.S. -- our way of life, even our continued existence, was in jeopardy. I don't think history's borne that out. There were struggles for influence, as always with great powers, but apart from nuclear war -- a prospect which the Soviets didn't seek -- there was no real existential threat.

Doubtless I'm overstating a bit, but I think the substance is pretty sound. Certainly, my main point is that "Islamofascism" is even *more* of a fantasy than the Soviet Menace -- go read absolutely *any* right-winger who uses the word "caliphate" other than derisively in a discussion of our enemies' aims.

It's important to revisit the Cold War, and to understand how it was oversold to America, so that we can try to prevent the same thing's happening with our latest phony war, the GWOT. We need to kill or capture the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, we need to adopt policies to prevent and punish terrorism ... but it's not an existential threat to the U.S., and if the American people aren't taking terrorism seriously enough (as Houston Lawyer suggested), maybe it's because our leaders aren't taking it seriously either. Invading Iraq and tying up our resources there was one of the worst possible responses to 9/11 -- hell, we might've done better to take Doug Feith's advice and invade Bolivia.

So ... the Cold War wasn't a myth, but the reality was mythologized.
1.9.2008 12:19am
Perseus (mail):
This is not the place for me to teach a seminar on the Cold War, for which I am professionally unqualified

Yet you insist on doing so anyway (demonstrating your lack of professional qualifications in the process) despite its marginal relevance to the thread topic.
1.9.2008 5:31am
markm (mail):
I'm not convinced the "Reagan coalition" ever was based on anything more than the man's likeableness and ability to evade any hard commitments to specifics, enabling disparate groups to read agreement with their goals into his jokes and vague generalities.. It's not to Bush's discredit that he isn't as slippery...

However, one thing that Bush and the pork-barrel-grabbing Republicans in Congress have done is to make it impossible to keep the smaller-government advocates in the Republican party satisfied with lip service to small government at the same time spending continues to increase and government agencies continue to multiply. Fred Thompson and Ron Paul are the only candidates without a record that grossly and consistently contradicts any claim to be for limited government - and much as I like Ron Paul, I prefer sanity in my Presidents...
1.9.2008 7:54am
Anderson (mail):
Yet you insist on doing so anyway (demonstrating your lack of professional qualifications in the process) despite its marginal relevance to the thread topic.

Welcome to the "internet," Perseus! Enjoy your visit!
1.9.2008 9:36am
Bart (mail):
Far from an example of how the Reagan coalition is breaking up, it appears that New Hampshire and to a lesser extent Iowa are examples of the mischief independents can wreak if allowed to vote in party primaries.
1.9.2008 10:43am
Bart (mail):
Zombie Richard Feynman (mail) (www):

Bart: I am not concerned about the Euros as rivals because they are literally dying off as an economy and perhaps as a civilization as they fail to have enough babies to even replace their current population. BTW, China is in the same boat because of their one child policy. Both areas will have a very large contingent of elderly and not enough kids to care for them.

Wow, that's dumb. I know, I know, there was a book about it. But I'm sorry, culture is not genetic. There is no evidence of a cultural or economic shift taking place in either of those countries...

Culture is not genetic, but it is very real. To claim that there is no difference between Christian and Islamic cultures is to ignore over a millennia of proof. Unlike the United States, Europe has done a very poor job integrating their Muslim immigrants into Euro culture. The result has been separate cultures and communities in the same countries. This has always been a recipe for trouble.

historically, demographic change has never caused the downfall of a civilization.

You really need to read some history. Start with the fall of Rome.
1.9.2008 10:52am
Anderson (mail):
Bart, I think the "mischief" is salutary. The problem with our primary system is that it give the party base too much say, with the result that a dogmatically sound candidate gets whupped in the general election where a moderate candidate could have won.

Independent voters decide close general elections, so it's good to have primary winners who can draw some independents.
1.9.2008 10:55am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
An Independent who votes in a NH primary is a member of that party for the instant he is voting. It's only a matter of degree, in this case how long the voter has been a member of the party, because there are no other entrance requirements.

A once-and-future-Independent could vote for the worst candidate to help the eventual candidate from the other big party (as could a crypto-member of either party) but it's not going to do much good.
There are still limited choices, and an Independent might find it in his best interest to vote to get someone he likes closer to the nomination and/or someone he doesn't like farther. (Assuming it's in his best interest to vote at all...)
We try not to have to do the chess game. Should I vote for Huckabee because I like him, or should I vote for Romney because he's the Republican mostly likely to beat the Democrat, and I like any of the Republicans better than any of the Democrats, or I want the Republicans in charge of the cabinet? (<- those are examples)
1.9.2008 11:33am
Mark Field (mail):

Certainly, my main point is that "Islamofascism" is even *more* of a fantasy than the Soviet Menace


Agreed that those who puddle their pants in fear of the "caliphate" seem to lack even a passing acquaintance with reality.


We need to kill or capture the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11, we need to adopt policies to prevent and punish terrorism ... but it's not an existential threat to the U.S.


Agreed.


It's important to revisit the Cold War, and to understand how it was oversold to America


Agreed. While I believe the Cold War was real, and even an existential threat in some sense, the Republican party sold out America for party advantage with their anti-Communist hysteria, and that disgraceful behavior cost us trillions of unnecessary dollars, tens of thousands of lives, and serious erosion of democracy and freedom. They did much the same with fear of crime, and they're trying to do it a third time with terrorism. Fortunately, the American people don't seem to be buying it this time around.
1.9.2008 11:51am
Bart (mail):
Anderson (mail):

Bart, I think the "mischief" is salutary. The problem with our primary system is that it give the party base too much say, with the result that a dogmatically sound candidate gets whupped in the general election where a moderate candidate could have won.

Independent voters decide close general elections, so it's good to have primary winners who can draw some independents.

Independents have opted out of the party system and deserve what they get in the general election.

Similarly, if a party nominates a candidate who cannot muster a majority of all voters in a general election, it deserves to lose.

However, every democracy on the planet operates a party system to offer candidates which reflect the party's governing values. The only way to ensure that a candidate actually reflects the party's values is to have the party choose the candidate, not independents who have no principles.
1.9.2008 11:59am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
eyesay: "Doesn't anyone care about the law around here?"

IOKIYAR.
1.9.2008 12:52pm
hattio1:
Anderson,
Nice to know you care about the lives of your fellow Americans. More importantly, do you think the US wouldn't have retaliated just because a hypothetical bomb landed in a relatively unpopulated area rather than the eastern seaboard?
1.9.2008 3:09pm
Anderson (mail):
Nice to know you care about the lives of your fellow Americans.

Thanks! I assume that includes you?

More importantly, do you think the US wouldn't have retaliated just because a hypothetical bomb landed in a relatively unpopulated area rather than the eastern seaboard?

I'm sorry, that would be a question in response to what, exactly?

The discussion was about whether the Soviet Union posed a genuine threat to the U.S. in the Cold War. I pointed out that the Cuban-missile fiasco was a clumsy effort to make up for their inferior missiles by putting them close to the U.S.

Then you pointed out that Russia was already close to the U.S., if we take Alaska into account.

The relevance here is not whether the Soviets could hit some portion of American soil, but whether they could pose a credible nuclear threat that would counter our own threats (such as our missiles in Turkey). The relevance is NOT whether we'd have retaliated for the annihilation of Fairbanks. Sure, we would've. (Though hopefully not by annihilating Leningrad or Kiev.)

The relevance is whether missiles pointed at Fairbanks would've scared us policy-wise, and whatever YOU think the answer might be, it's pretty obvious what the *Russians* thought the answer was.
1.9.2008 3:19pm
hattio1:
Anderson,
Yes, it does include me. And to a certain extent, the comment was prompted by a typical Alaska trait, annoyance at the fact that people don't really take Alaska into account when they talk about the US. (BTW, Russia is already close to the US if you take Alaska into account? Why wouldn't you take AK into account??? It is a state. US means United States)

But, on a more substantive level, I'm not sure the Russians did agree with you as to strategic importance (at least not later on in the cold war). I've heard that the US had confirmation that Seward and Valdez were both on the nuclear strike list of Russia. (This could be urban legend though, I've never sought to confirm it). Valdez is the terminal of the Alaska Pipeline which supplied about 1/4 of US oil at the time I believe. Seward is the next most logical place to try to load oil tankers. Also, there's tons of radar installations in AK that would provide notice of a nuclear attack.
1.9.2008 5:27pm
Anderson (mail):
But, on a more substantive level, I'm not sure the Russians did agree with you as to strategic importance

The issue isn't strategic importance, the issue is, "did the Russians feel comfortable with the status quo, or did they feel the need to put medium-range missiles 90 miles from Florida?" Answer: the latter. So they weren't satisfied with the value of their deterrent.

Khrushchev claimed later that the missiles were to protect Cuba, but I think that's malarkey. He didn't need nukes to protect Cuba, and he didn't need nukes *in* Cuba to protect Cuba. As I understand it, the Soviet missile gap was severe and their ICBM's were crap at that time -- they needed Cuba as a nuke platform, or at least, K. convinced himself &the Politburo that they did.

Re: Alaska's marginality, trust me, Mississippi is part of the lower 48, and no one thinks we're part of America either.
1.9.2008 5:37pm
Anderson (mail):
To venture even further past my realm of competence, I was wondering on that last comment, why didn't the Soviets rely on their nuke subs instead of stupid Cuban missiles?

Wikipedia suggests that their first ballistic-nuke subs weren't operational until Dec. 1963, which would imply a "window" they feared to leave open.

As for their strategic bombers, I simply do not know, but obviously neither we nor they cared to rely solely upon those.
1.9.2008 5:53pm
hattio1:
Still, I think you are over-rating the "need" for Cuba (or perceived need) vs. taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself. I mean, assume you are reasonably confident you can win a case. But you also have the opportunity to suppress a crucial bit of evidence for the State. Of course you jump at it.
1.9.2008 6:09pm
hattio1:
Anderson says;

Re: Alaska's marginality, trust me, Mississippi is part of the lower 48, and no one thinks we're part of America either.

Yeah, there wasn't 24/7 coverage of Katrina or anything....
1.9.2008 6:10pm
Anderson (mail):
N.O. got the lion's share of that, despite the fact that *we* were the ones who got hit by the badass end of the storm.

Of course, my state doesn't write annual checks to its citizens, either.

I'll give you the opportunistic quality of the Cuban adventure, but the negatives were so obvious that K. had to have something other than "ooh look, comrades next to Florida!" to get the Politburo on board with him. He didn't enjoy Stalinesque powers of command.
1.9.2008 6:41pm
hattio1:
All right, I'll give you that NO got the lion's share. But at least you're sharing the spotlight with humans. If folks know about the damage from loss of sea ice, they think polar bears, not Shishmareff (sp?) and numerous other towns having to relocate because of erosion.
But, by now we are several topics removed from the original thread...and probably the only two still reading comments.
1.9.2008 7:39pm
hattio1:
BTW, ARRRGH, that's what we want to be known for. Annual PFD checks. How about neither a state sales tax, income tax or property tax?
1.9.2008 7:40pm
Randy R. (mail):
No, I enjoy reading this. I didn't know Alaskans were so sensitive! Kinda shoots down their hardbitten image of daring do and leave me the hell alone, doesn't it?
1.10.2008 12:41pm
hattio1:
No dammit. We're sensitvie about keeping up that image too.
1.10.2008 12:42pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
It took not just Bush but the republican old farts in leadership in congress combined with the pitiful group of non-Reagan's currently seeking election in the presidential race to break apart the Reagan coalition.

The Reagan coalition is still there waiting for an inspirational leader with the right core values on all aspects of conservatism, social, economic, and defense.

BUSH I left the republican party in shambles and many of us wondered how could we recover after losing so much power in congress and the presidency in 1992. Thankfully, Hillary came along with Health Care reform and in 1994 the republicans were in charge thanks to inspiration leaders like Newt Gingrich. Then the corrupt old republican machine farts threw Gingrich overboard and set about spending like drunken sailors and some acting like gay drunken sailors and others acting like immoral/unethical drunken sailors.

There is such a huge lack of excitement over the pitiful group of republican party candidates for president. They are mostly against major parts of the Reagan coalition, and others like McCain can't be trusted, is against national security (i.e. immigration reform and border security), is just as likely to appoint liberal judges as Obama or Clinton and overall is a big ego maniacal jerk with a hand puppet named Lindsey Graham.

I have never voted for a democrat in my entire life, but if McCain becomes the republican nominee I will vote for Obama or Hillary because I'd rather have the country ruined by somebody who tells you up front they want to ruin the country than to get stabbed in the back again by McCain.

Says the "Dog"
1.10.2008 4:03pm