Dean's Reagan Remark at his March 18 Seattle Speech, Interpreted

My interpretation for those "whose hair is darker than mine" (i.e. younger and may not have lived through those times):

First, a little recent (last 50 years) American history.

In the '40's and '50's, there was very little of the "social safety net" we see now. There was little or no Medicare, Medicaid, or welfare, and Social Security was a much smaller animal. This meant that people who fell on hard times, or had the misfortune to retire poor, had a very hard time of it.

By the '60's, that time of great social ferment on all fronts, all this had come to a head. Horror stories ran in the news about senior citizens buying dog food at the grocery store-- and they didn't have a dog. Lyndon Johnson, remembering his poor upbringing in Texas, determined that other Americans would not go through what he had to go through in his youth, and created "The Great Society." All the help-people programs were either created, or greatly bulked up, and we wound up with the form of Federal government we are more familiar with today.

This horrified the old-school greedheads, and in the 70's they found a spokesman in Ronald Reagan. This fellow, with his warm, folksy-cowboy manner, charmingly advanced the notion that government was "Big Evil Government, Interfering With People's Lives," and had to be curbed and cut back. The phrase, "getting government out of people's lives" became a mantra of the right-wing throughout the '80's. It's the original, founding meme (idea-unit) of the right-wing movement. It quickly became clear, however, that the "people" to whom this referred did not include women, as the Reaganauts launched a full-scale assault on women's right to choose, as well as chilling the climate for contraception. Reagan presided with benign indifference over a massive increase in clinic bombings and blockades over the course of the '80's, as well as a spate of serial killings of women, shady deals between Ollie North, Nicaraquan Contra thug squads, and the fundamentalist Ayatollahs of Iran.

The right-wing agenda was progressing nicely into the '90's after Reagan handed off the baton to Bush Sr., until they hit a speed bump called Willam Jefferson Blythe Clinton. Clinton, with his veto powers, threw a massive monkeywrench into their plans, hence the shrill right-wing campaign from Inauguration Day, 1993, to get him out of office by any means possible. However, Clinton's Teflon held up, and they had to wait for the entire 8 years of his two terms.

In 2000, the right-wingers were finally able to put their team back together in the White House. And make no mistake-- most of the familiar ugly faces we see on CNN today were there during Bush I's term. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell... they are all from the original team. With near-total control of all three houses of government, they have been able to push the pendulum of American history far to the right.

Notice in the previous narrative of history, the metaphorical pendulum swinging right, left, then right again.

I believe that Dean's remark represents not "something out of left field", but rather a direct challenge to the founding meme of the right-wing movement. "Do you hear me, Ronald Reagan? An America where people can *depend* on their government!"

Dean is fond of history, as he states in his autobiography, and has to be fully aware of the current position of the historical pendulum. It is swung far to the right, and as we know, when pendulums are far to one side, they are ready and loaded up to swing the other way. Dean is announcing, I believe, that he intends to give it a good stiff shove back towards the center.

It's a great, eagle's-eye-view type of remark, and as one who had to live through the rise of "the Reagan Revolution" and watch this cancer grow on our body politic, I find it enormously liberating. It does, indeed, give me hope.



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Or else I'm just a Luddite