In the process of continuing his pissing match with Barack Obama, Paul Krugman finds an acorn:
Maybe Mr. Obama was, as his supporters insist, simply praising Reagan’s political skills. (I think he was trying to curry favor with a conservative editorial board, which did in fact endorse him.)
Ding…Ding…Ding! We have a winner. Barack Obama was speaking to a conservative editorial board when he had less than unflattering things to say about the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Astonishingly, Obama was setting aside time from his busy schedule to try to gain an endorsement from a conservative paper in an effort to win just a few more votes in his quest to win the Nevada caucuses. The gall of this man!! How dare he!!
Unfortunately, the progressive movement is replete with pinheads that think running for president is some kind of academic exercise. Krugman is a case in point. His column today is correct in all its details. Reagan’s presidency was no economic miracle and it hurt the middle class, working people, and the poor. Reaganomics have worked no better in the present administration. It’s important that progressives fight back against false narratives about the Reagan years because those narratives matter. They matter because they set the framework within which the public debate takes place. And that framework is falsely skewed to the right in large part because of accepted myths that have been built into the national narrative. Progressives should concede none of these myths and fight back against them at every opportunity. Or…almost every opportunity.
Let’s just look at this in a common sense manner. If you are discussing the upcoming election with your father, or an aunt, or your boss, or a co-worker, and they have already bought into the dominant Reagan narrative (he won the Cold War, fixed the economy, etc.) and you are trying to convince them to vote for a Democrat, what is a better use of your time? It is better to speak about current history (Katrina, the cost of war, college, gas, heat) or to try to disabuse them of their historical misperceptions?
The question answers itself. Likewise, it would be absolutely foolish for Barack Obama to go into an interview with a corporate editorial board with the intent to rewrite their pro-Reagan understanding of history. It is much better to speak to them in terms they understand, perhaps even pandering to and exploiting some of those misperceptions. What is gained, after all, by getting into an argument about the significance of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
In this case, Obama did, in fact, get the endorsement he sought. But there is a segment of people in the progressive world that cannot abide the perpetuation of any false frames. To praise Reagan, no matter how tepidly and no matter the context, is to violate some sacrosanct rules. It is to insult all those that Reagan injured. It perpetuates harmful myths and so is ultimately self-defeating. My message to you: please, get over yourselves.
Barack Obama is a (half) black man running for president in the United States of America…a mere forty years after a sniper shattered Martin Luther King Jr’s spine and ended his life. The biggest obstacle to his campaign is the lingering white resentment and backlash of the post-civil rights movement era. Obama must disassociate himself from all the most powerful symbols of that struggle (most notably, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the progressive critique of Reagan’s racial policies). It is nothing less than a staggering lack of sophistication that allows white progressives to take offense at Obama’s refusal to play along. Krugman’s advice would be poison to Obama’s campaign specifically because progressives have been losing the battle to define Reagan’s legacy. No fight could be less productive for Obama than to take up Krugman’s challenge in the midst of a campaign.
That Obama can walk into a meeting with a corporate editorial board in Nevada and walk out with an endorsement over two white opponents is something that should be applauded. Instead, progressives accuse him of selling out, of reinforcing false frames, of insulting progressives.
It’s just depressing to watch. Let the man take you for granted. Let him diss you now and then. It’s not your vote he needs. He needs the ‘straight’ community, he needs the business community, he needs the white (non-labor) vote, he needs to expand his appeal. And progressives want to put him in a straight-jacket by parsing everything he says and picking it over to check for signs of heresy.
Sometimes progressives deserve their position on the fringe of American politics. This is one of those times.