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Sorry, Jim, Obama Democrats are Nothing like Ronald Reagan

In a thoughtful piece at the Washington Post, former Chuck Schumer aide Jim Kessler sees the troubles facing congressional Democrats, but finds “five potentially decisive differences between 1994 and 2010.

Now, to be sure, he makes some great points and each of the differences he cites is accurate and telling, but his argument as a whole is little more than wishful thinking.  His basic point is that Democrats can limit their losses (preventing a repeat of 1994) if only, well, Democrats act more like Ronald Reagan*

If Democrats are to hold on in November, they must follow Reagan’s tack, sketching a vision for the future that has the United States leading the globe with the world’s strongest economy — one fueled by private-sector growth and a successful middle class. And they must resist the temptation to succumb to a populism that portrays members of the middle class as weak, powerless victims.

Problem is is that none of the current leaders of the Democratic Party is one bit like the Gipper.  While Kessler is right to distinguish Nancy Pelosi from Tom Foley, the Democratic Speaker of the House in 1994, neither she nor Harry Reid nor the president himself possess Ronald Reagan’s charisma, optimism and commitment to principle.  Nor does their vision align with that of the American people.

First, let me say, I highly recommend the article.  It’s thoughtful, honest and devoid of the crass denigrations of conservatives we see all too often from pundits on the left.  But, as I said, it’s full of wishful thinking.

For example, while he praises Pelosi for being less ineffectual and aloof than Foley, holding that “she sees polls each day from races across the country”, her very attitude suggests a real cluelessness about the trends in polling, with increasing distrust in the federal government and a growing concern about the size of the deficit registering in surveys from New Hampshire to New Mexico and from Ohio to Oregon.  

While Mrs. Pelosi may be less aloof than Foley, she also comes across as, to borrow an adjective from Kessler, far less “gentle.”  She rubs people the wrong way.  Republican congressional candidates will benefit when they remind their constituents of their Democratic opponents” (especially the incumbents) support for Pelosi’s agenda.  Some candidates are already running such ads.  While Pelosi may be more politically astute than Foley was, she’s also more of a lightning rod.

By contrast, while incoming House Speaker John Boehner may be less of a political revolutionary than Newt Gingrich (as Kessler points out in contrasting the two), he is also less of a lightning rod than the former Speaker.

In highlighting the difference between the way the 103rd (1993-94) and 111th (current) Democratic Congresses handled one particular issue, Kessler stands on most shaky ground.  He believes that it will help congressional Democrats that they passed a major overhaul of our health care system.  Okay, then, if that’s the case, how come, as Politico’s Jim Vandehei put it, “Not a single Democrat has run an ad in support of the health care bill since April“.

I mean, if the issue benefited Democrats, surely, they’d be running ads in support of the legislation that occupied the better part of the current Congress. Despite the absence of such ads, Kessler contends:

Health-care reform may not be popular, but at least this Congress passed a bill. In 1994, the idea was both unpopular and a failure. This made Congress look feckless and leaderless. In addition, as pieces of the health-care bill are implemented, voters’ views on the legislation may be softening.

Emphasis added.  May be softening?  Um, Jim, Democrats (and their supporters — as we have witnessed in the comments sections at this blog) have been saying this at least since congressional Democrats pushed forward on this legislation while losing the debate with the American people.  And polls continue to register strong opposition to Obamacare.

Even the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, perhaps the survey to have shown the greatest support for the overhaul during the debate, found “that support for health reform fell over the course of August, dipping from a 50 percent favorability rating in July to 43 percent, while 45 percent of the public reported unfavorable views.”

Kessler doesn’t cite this poll — or any poll for that matter — to back up his hope suggestion that voters’ views may be softening.  

To be sure, he does cite one poll.

That poll, however, offers a false choice.  “Our recent poll found that voters approved of a hypothetical candidate who supported Obama’s economic policies by 15 points over one who wanted to go back to Bush’s economic policies.”  Democratic claims notwithstanding, Republicans today don’t want to return to Bush’s economic policies.  Many (but, alas, not all) are talking about returning to the Gipper’s.

That said, I’m a little skeptical about the poll Kessler cites.  Given his use of the first person plural to describe it, it probably comes from “Third Way” the “progressive” think tank where he works as vice president for policy.  

By contrast, a recent poll from the Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling finds that “by a 50-42 margin voters” in the Buckey State “say they’d rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama.”  Now, to be sure, the pollsters are asking different questions, one about the policies of the two presidents, the other about the men themselves, but, well, Ohio has gone with the winner in every presidential election since 1964.
*For the record, we have another leftie acknowledging the Gipper’s accomplishments.



  1. sketching a vision for the future that has the United States leading the globe with the world’s strongest economy — one fueled by private-sector growth and a successful middle class.

    They could, but they won’t. It’d be a complete 180 and they would have to say that they’ve been full of shit for the past 40 years. Actually, they are who they are and I don’t believe for a second that they could pretend to give a damn about the country with a straight face.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — September 6, 2010 @ 7:13 am - September 6, 2010

  2. I get the picture. THEY (the Dems) need to change from being proponents of evil idiocy to begnign wisdom. They need to stop meowing and start barking. Piece of cake.

    Comment by JPE — September 6, 2010 @ 8:13 am - September 6, 2010

  3. ThatGayConservative nails it.

    The Democrats could bring Mario the Pious back as the oracle of Reaganism. They could turn Pelosi loose as the great nanny of principle and responsibility. They could run Chuckie Schumer around the streets dressed as Ben Franklin and handing out pennies. They could hector illegal aliens to go home and get right with God. They could teach pigs to fly. They could wish upon many stars. They could plant magic beans. They could harness the power of the tooth fairy. They could fuel the energy plants with unicorn dung. If they had some ham, they could have ham and eggs, if they had some eggs.

    Dreams, rainbows and thinking happy thoughts will surely keep the Republicans from the House door.

    Comment by heliotrope — September 6, 2010 @ 8:19 am - September 6, 2010

  4. Their problem would be that their “leader” does NOT believe in the AWESOMENESS of America. To be THE leader in the World economy and to sell that not only here in America but around the World, one must first suspend disbelief that WE The People are a good and great people! and the Marxists running the Democrat Party do not believe!

    Comment by JadedByPolitics — September 6, 2010 @ 8:42 am - September 6, 2010

  5. If Democrats are to hold on in November, they must follow Reagan’s tack, sketching a vision for the future that has the United States leading the globe with the world’s strongest economy — one fueled by private-sector growth and a successful middle class.

    But they don’t want that. American prosperity and leadership, to most Democrats, is a bad thing. Progressives constantly harp on how the USA has 5% of the world’s people but consumes 20% of the world’s resources. It follows that fairness demands that our standard of living (our prosperity) be reduced 75%. And leadership just leads to icky wars and stuff.

    As Steve Forbes put it, they want to “change America from a greedy nation to a quiet socialist nation that knows its place in the world.”

    Or, to paraphrase Fallout Boy, they’re willing to burn the city down to show us the light.

    Comment by V the K — September 6, 2010 @ 8:56 am - September 6, 2010

  6. […] One Democrat strategerist thinks he knows how to keep his party in power come November. (Hat Tip: Gay Patriot) If Democrats are to hold on in November, they must follow Reagan’s tack, sketching a vision for […]

    Pingback by Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year « Good Morning Patriots — September 6, 2010 @ 9:15 am - September 6, 2010

  7. The problem for the Democrats is that they have no clue how wealth is created. They think that increased government spending is economic growth, rather than the destruction of wealth that it actually is.
    I thought I understood Keynesian economic theory pretty well but I was stunned to learn recently that Keynesians believe that private investment takes money out of the economy. Democrats and liberals seem to think that wealth is some discreet entity that exists in a finite quantity and that “the rich” hold their wealth in the form of cash and coins in a vault ala Scrooge McDuck.
    The Democrats are promoting communism and until we get these fools out of power the economy will not recover.

    Comment by SouthernGay — September 6, 2010 @ 9:39 am - September 6, 2010

  8. Even if the democrats did put forth such a vision of the future, would anyone believe them? Since it is contrary to everything they have said and done since Nov 2008, they would have to be either lying or completely wrong to this point. So even if you felt they were sincere, you would have to concede that their judgement had been spectacularly wrong thus far, and that they had basically failed. In either case, supporting such a platform would be an act of insanity.

    Comment by Brian — September 6, 2010 @ 9:43 am - September 6, 2010

  9. I hear a lot of talk about a return to Reagan’s policies. Which ones are we talking about though? The tripling of the federal deficit? The eleven different tax increases? The amnesty for illegal immigrants? The negotiations with terrorist groups?

    The fact of the matter is, I can imagine a candidate with Reagan’s record running in a Republican primary now and getting hammered as a big-spending RINO who is soft on terrorist and weak on immgrations.

    You’ve managed to convince yourself Reagan was something he wasn’t. Hell, my first link is from the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the “world center of the Austrian School of economics and libertarian political and social theory”, blasting Reagan in an October 1988 article saying:

    “Even Ford and Carter did a better job at cutting government”

    “…the heralded Tax Reform Act of 1986 is more deception than substance”

    “For all the administration’s talk about deregulation (for example, from the know-nothing commission which George Bush headed), it has done little”

    “By now it should not be surprising that the size of the bureaucracy has also grown. Today, there are 230,000 more civilian government workers than in 1980, bringing the total to almost three million. Reagan even promoted the creation of a new federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs to join the Departments of Education and Energy, which his administration was supposed to eliminate”

    “The Reagan administration has been the most protectionist since Herbert Hoover’s. The portion of imports under restriction has doubled since 1980”

    Then finally, my personal favourite:

    Reagan’s fans argue that he has changed the terms of public-policy debate, that no one today dares propose big spending programs. I contend that the alleged spending-shyness of politicians is not the result of an ideological sea-change, but rather of their constituents’ fiscal fright brought about by $250 billion Reagan budget deficits. If the deficit ever shrinks, the demand for spending will resume.

    This is the Reagan legacy. He was to be the man who would turn things around. But he didn’t even try. As he so dramatically illustrated when he accepted the plant-closing bill, there has been no sea-change in thinking about the role of government.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Sound like anyone you know?

    Comment by Serenity — September 6, 2010 @ 9:50 am - September 6, 2010

  10. Reagan sucked.

    Comment by steve — September 6, 2010 @ 10:04 am - September 6, 2010

  11. Kind of funny how, back when Reagan was actually president, the contemporary left was whining about how he was brutally slashing government and threatening to blow up the world with his tough “cowboy” stance against the USSR. But now, thanks to the the wonders of revisionist history, he is suddenly a big government wimp who coddled terrorists.

    Progressives lie with every breath.

    Comment by V the K — September 6, 2010 @ 10:55 am - September 6, 2010

  12. The Dems in the past still believed in capitalism. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, are socialists. When a russian who left the Soviet Union in 1970 says he the rhetoric of the present administration is what he used to hear from the leaders in the USSR. The ADA was once a pariah having been founded by former communist sympathizers and soft hearted fellow travelers. Now most Democratic candidates seeks to seeks to score high with the ADA. What was Obama´s ADA rating? It should have told us that the change he had in mind was socialism. Reid and Pelosi are willing to implement his change.

    Comment by Roberto — September 6, 2010 @ 11:10 am - September 6, 2010

  13. Reagan reduced the top tax rate from 70% to 28%. (And if GHW Bush and Bill Clinton had left it there, we would have been fine, but whatever.) It’s pretty dishonest to portray him as a tax increaser.

    After those cuts, tax revenue to the Federal Government doubled in a few short years. Had Reagan not been outspent by a Democratic Congress, the deficits could have been reduced or eliminated. In fact, the only time deficits have been brought down to manageable levels have been when Republicans have controlled Congress; Bush’s worst deficit is still smaller than Obama’s lowest projected deficit; and Bush’s worst deficit was in 2008 and 2009… i.e. When both houses of Congress had a Democrat majority.

    As for Amnesty, yeah, he effed that up. He made the mistake of trusting Congress when they said Amnesty was the cost of securing the border. But we learned from that mistake, which is why we now demand border security come before any talk of Amnesty. Also, Reagan never sued states to stop them from enforcing Federal Immigration Laws that his administration was refusing to enforce.

    Reagan didn’t deal with Islamic terrorism well, mainly because that would have meant taking his eye off the ball of the existential threat of Soviet Communism. He sort of won that one for us, didn’t he? If progressives had had their way, Eastern Europe would still be under the yoke of Soviet communism, and probably a lot more of the Earth, too. And, if you want to come down to why the left still hates Reagan, that’s most of it. That was the outcome the Democrat Left in the USA and the Labourite Left in the UK wanted.

    Comment by V the K — September 6, 2010 @ 11:39 am - September 6, 2010

  14. […] Sorry, Jim, Obama Democrats are Nothing like Ronald Reagan […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Does Barack Obama Love the United States of America? — September 6, 2010 @ 12:00 pm - September 6, 2010

  15. Several people have noticed this and refuted it:

    If Democrats are to hold on in November, they must follow Reagan’s tack, sketching a vision for the future that has the United States leading the globe with the world’s strongest economy

    Am I the only one who just-plain-laughed at it?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — September 6, 2010 @ 1:03 pm - September 6, 2010

  16. Reagan is the man who later emptied out the mental hospitals in California, tried to declare ketchup and relish to be vegetables so they could save money by cutting a fresh vegetable from poor kids’ lunches, said, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so”, said that Medicare would be the end of freedom in America, ignored and downplayed the exploding AIDS crisis, eliminated many middle-class tax exemptions, cut taxes for the wealthy, quadrupled the deficit, and raised the Social Security retirement age. What a BASTARD!

    Comment by steve — September 6, 2010 @ 4:41 pm - September 6, 2010

  17. Reagan is the man who later emptied out the mental hospitals in California

    Literally getting out the Democrat vote.

    Comment by American Elephant — September 6, 2010 @ 5:22 pm - September 6, 2010

  18. steve, how do you expect anyone to take you seriously? That is, assuming you’re not some sick parody troll…

    Comment by AF_Vet — September 6, 2010 @ 5:41 pm - September 6, 2010

  19. No modern Democrat, particularly Obama Democrats, are anything like President Ronald Reagan; in fact, Obama Democrats are the antithesis of President Reagan. Jim Kessler might as well as having a conversation with a brick wall. A brick wall will do more for his column. But the Obama Democrats? They’re already off the cliff.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — September 6, 2010 @ 7:32 pm - September 6, 2010

  20. The weird part is… steve is not a parody troll. Serenity may be better at faking erudition, and Levi may be a lot windier… but at the end of the day, they and steve are all part of the same asylum. steve is just more concise.

    Comment by V the K — September 6, 2010 @ 7:33 pm - September 6, 2010

  21. “Reagan is the man who later emptied out the mental hospitals in California”

    Thus inflicting “Cut and Paste” Steve on the rest of us.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 7, 2010 @ 8:16 am - September 7, 2010

  22. Kind of funny how, back when Reagan was actually president, the contemporary left was whining about how he was brutally slashing government and threatening to blow up the world with his tough “cowboy” stance against the USSR. But now, thanks to the the wonders of revisionist history, he is suddenly a big government wimp who coddled terrorists.

    I feel I should respond to this, since it neatly fits with a hypothesis about Reagan.

    That the contemporary left at the time (I say this because I was 4 when Reagan left office) used hyperbole about Reagan slashing the government and taking a reckless stance against the USSR is certainly true. However the above critique shows that it was just that. The bits about slashing government and taking reckless risks with foreign policy were all lies, Reagan never did any of it.

    However, the strange thing is that it seems the 80s left actually managed to win the debate with a pack of lies, as their opponents on the right actually began to believe the hype and took it on as their own. Even before he left office, the real Reagan (a relative moderate who did little to change the way the American government worked) began disappearing, and the fake Reagan (a caricature designed entirely to make people think he was too extreme to be President) took his place.

    Then the brilliant irony is that you get a caricature made entirely out of cloth by your opponents, and base your entire political philosophy around it. Meaning you swing off the right, rationalizing that Reagan was that right-wing and still got elected President twice with massive majorities, when the Reagan you’re talking about is not a real person but a fictional character that came into being from propaganda by his Democratic opponents!

    So yeah, progressives lie with every breath. But it takes a conservative to actually believe all that bullshit and try to win elections with it.

    Comment by Serenity — September 7, 2010 @ 2:44 pm - September 7, 2010

  23. […] I first wrote about Kessler’s piece, I pointed out what Politico’s Jim Vandehei had noticed, ”Not a single […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Is Any Democrat Running on Obamacare in ‘10? — September 13, 2010 @ 10:10 pm - September 13, 2010

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