“Mourning in America”: A Brilliant Inversion of Reagan’s Classic Campaign Ad

From John Steele Gordon at Commentary comes the helpful suggestion to watch the Great Communicator’s version first.  “Morning in America” is one of the iconic ads that the Reagan re-election campaign deployed against the uninspiring VP of a failed president, en route to winning 49 states.  I voted against Reagan twice, but now believe him to be by far the greatest president of my lifetime.  If you have any fond memories of the man at all, this will help stir them.

Now an apparently new group called Citizens for the Republic — named after Reagan’s political action committee — has adapted Reagan’s message to the current era, as “Mourning in America”:

The more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone is what makes the ad so effective.  It’s astonishing to consider just how much havoc Obama has created in our economy in less than two years.

A recent summation by James Taranto indulges in a bit more anger, but holds out hope for a new morning:

By now it should be clear that the only new idea Obama introduced into American politics was the idea of Obama: Obama the voice of a new generation, Obama the brilliant technocrat, Obama the postracial leader.

The reality of Obama has been quite the opposite. The fresh-faced young leader has governed according to stale old ideas. The dazzling intellect has proved inadequate to basic managerial challenges. We haven’t even been able to enjoy the achievement of having elected a black president, because so many of Obama’s supporters (though not Obama himself, to his credit) won’t shut up about how every criticism of the president and his policies is “racist.”

Yet in America’s current predicament, there is ample reason for optimism. We’d like to think that the failure of Obama’s policies will discredit the bad economic ideas on which they’re based, that his incompetence will discredit the notion that the cognitive elite should run the lives of everyone else, and that the phony charges of racism will discredit the long-outdated assumption of white guilt, at last bringing America close to the ideal of a colorblind society.

This is not to deny that the Obama presidency has been ruinous. But sometimes the costliest mistakes are those from which we learn the most.

8 thoughts on ““Mourning in America”: A Brilliant Inversion of Reagan’s Classic Campaign Ad

  1. I have to admit to being a bit taken aback, Kirk. “Havoc” in our economy? About the only thing Obama can be blamed for is not being aggressive enough in the stimulus, and seizing the chance for big infrastructure projects what would move us into the next millenium. He was been in office for less than two years. We are living through _years_ of republican control, and policies enacted by republican congresses and a republican president. The cases where it’s true that Obama has embraced stale ideas, are in the cases where he’s kept the stale republican ideas. We needed a bigger house cleaning of the financial system, and bigger smackdown of big oil.

    I despair at the republican party exactly because of ads like this. I too admire Reagan. At a time of similar economic despair he stepped up and said “It’s morning in America.” If you’ll excuse me for a moment, he said “Yes we can.” Yes we can stand up to the soviets, yes we can be an economic power, etc. The republicans now are the “No we can’t” party. No we can’t invest in infrastructure. No we can’t fix our health care system. No we can’t invest in science. Heck, republicans don’t even believe in science anymore. It’s a party of creationists and climate-change deniers.

    The democrats suffer from cowardice, but the republicans are intellectually bankrupt.

  2. Kirk,

    I mostly agree with the poster above in his assessment of our current condition, but I feel that I must add that Reagan’s supply-side myth was the root of the economic mess that we have today. I saw this when we were in college and still hold to it today. Trickle-down is at least a bit more honest a term, in that it at least suggests that what flows downward is a very tiny part of what the upper class took in. This widening gap of economic disparity is the root of the problems with campaign funding, corporate influence, narrowing national economic structure, and government deficit, and it predates Obama by almost 30 years. While Reagan accomplished some good things in foreign affairs, I would hardly view him as a great president, given the other things he set in motion that may eventually completely undermine our economy.

  3. Thanks for commenting, guys, although you’ll be unsurprised to learn that I disagree with virtually everything both of you say. (David, I’ll give you the bit about Democratic cowardice.)

    I’ve written at great length about the wasteful, dishonest and pork-laden “stimulus” bill. You could click the Stimulus category in the sidebar, or here’s a representative post: http://blog.kirkpetersen.net/2009/07/time-may-have-expired-for-obamas-crisisopportunity-tactics.html Now, for the sake of class conflict, the Democrats are looking to UNDERCUT the stimulus by raising taxes on the “rich” — i.e., the people who create jobs via investment.

    OK, maybe I’ll give you the creationist point as well (for the record, I accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on evolution). But I have to object to the term “client change deniers,” with its echo of “Holocaust deniers.” I think there’s ample reason to be concerned about climate change, but it doesn’t belong in the same sentence with evolution or Holocaust denial.

    John, I would argue that Reagan was on the right track in his efforts to make government smaller by starving the beast through tax cuts.

    • Hi Kirk,

      Starving the beast certainly won’t fix the economic problems that face us at the moment (and Reagan actually expanded the budget in his early years, as I recall). As for the stimulus, I need to do a bit of research on exactly where the money has been allocated, and might have more to say in the future. I still didn’t see you address the broadening income disparity that began under Reagan. When I get a chance, I will take a closer look at your past posts and see if you have posted on that subject.

      • I can save you some trouble on the last bit — I’m pretty sure I’ve never written anything about broadening income disparity. That’s because I don’t consider it to be an appropriate target for government intervention. Government should concern itself with equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

        • That is a good ideal, but what do we do when the outcome has run far, far ahead of the opportunity? Do you also feel that our economy will self-correct on this subject, or will it keep moving in the direction that it is moving in? I definitely fear the second of the two.

          • Wow these boxes get smaller and smaller…

            I’d much rather focus on the health of the overall economy than on the fact that some people get rich and others don’t. Rich people invest, and investment creates jobs, providing opportunities for poorer people to prosper.

  4. Kirk, regarding your last statement, if things keep moving in the direction they have, rich people get richer, and poor people (and the middle class) become poorer ; focusing only on the overall picture is simply ignoring this trend in the service of a dogmatic point of view. I would posit that the vast majority of money earned by the rich is not invested in decent jobs, but in things that make the rich richer; jobs are just a byproduct, and not one that there is any concern about the quality thereof. This is all pure common sense, in that the rich as a whole are not particularly interested in the conditions of those making less than them. As I view it, this is why Capitalism needs government (or some other force, whatever it may be) to provide correction for this trend, so we don’t end up with so much disparity that we regress to an economy that resembles that of the late 19th century. The notion that Capitalism is self-correcting is an unsupportable idea in history, that is lent credence mostly by those that already are in possesion of a great deal of wealth. When you speak of equality of opportunity, I see little evidence that we have that in the Libertarian model, unless it moves away from the strict dogma of nonintervention by the government. The last time we had what was in essence a Libertarian government model from a financial point of view that I can see would be over 100 years ago, and that is not a model that I would want to hold up as a positive one.

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