I'm not really interested in publically dissing Reagan at this moment. I'm having far too much fun, as Howler would phrase it, emitting mordant chuckles at the people who are this week exhibiting such paroxysms of adulation.
If I felt the tributes were expressions of honest emotion, I could respect them. I've learned over the years that, although it's not my way, many people draw comfort in grief by letting the bad memories and petty hurts fall away from their memories, at least for a short time of tribute. But, while lots of the grassroot emotion we've seen this week has been honest, at the political level there's an iron hand proffering that mourning wreath. For those people, the elevation of Reagan is nothing other than the elevation of the conservative agenda of the Republican Party.
After all, what kind of folk hero is it who needs a political organization to promote his memory across the country? Establishing memorials in Reagan's name (i.e., getting stuffed named after Reagan) is the sole reason for being of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, a project funded by the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. The Reagan Legacy Project, headed by neo-con elite Grover Norquist and advised by the likes of Karl Rove, Peggy Noonan, and Tom DeLay. The express purpose of this organization is "to honor and memorialize the historic achievements of President Ronald Reagan. It aims to do so by naming at least one notable public landmark in each state and all 3067 counties after the 40th president."
And why does this organization think naming things Reagan is a useful idea? Here's why: because over 600 items have already been dedicated to John F. Kennedy, and over 800 items have been dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., and "as a key figure and hero of the 20th Century, President Reagan must receive parity in Memoriam to President Kennedy and Dr. King." (see Reagan Legacy Project press release dated 6/8/04)
Kennedy and King, both of whom literally gave their lives in the service of their beliefs, both of them cut down in the prime of their lives, assassinated, apparently must not be held in higher esteem than a relatively mediocre president who people found likable.
And why? Because Kennedy and King were liberals, progressives, and are revered because of it. And conservatives want some of that action. 20th century Republican history cannot be defined by Nixon.