Kevin Drum’s Review of “Impostor” by Bruce Bartlett

The review is called George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan and I’d like to add that in my favorite passage in the review, Drum points out that Ronald Reagan was no Ronald Reagan either. In other words, Reagan’s actual behavior, and many of the things that happened during his administration, were not nearly as small government and “traditionally conservative” as conservatives like to believe. From the article:

What’s more, as Bartlett tacitly acknowledges, Reagan in practice wasn’t as conservative as his supporters remember him being. Sure, he famously cut taxes in 1981, but he raised taxes in nearly every year after that—including corporate taxes. He took a stab at cutting Social Security, but backed off after losing seats in the 1982 election and ended up endorsing a conventional liberal solution that increased payroll taxes and created a massive trust fund. He reduced the growth of domestic spending, but he never eliminated the cabinet departments he had promised to eliminate. In fact, he even added a new one. And he supported expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, an important anti-poverty measure. The reason that even liberals look back on Reagan a little more fondly today than they did at the time is that, in the end, he turned out to be a fairly pragmatic guy. (For more on this, see “Reagan’s Liberal Legacy,” by Joshua Green, January/February 2003.)

This is the reality that true-believer conservatives—Bartlett among them—don’t want to believe. For all the trash talking from right-wing leaders like Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay, the fact is that America is only a moderately conservative country. And despite the electoral success of conservatives over the past decade, that hasn’t changed much. Although party affiliations have shifted as Southern conservatives have migrated to the GOP, Harris polls since the early 1970s show that Americans self-identify as about 20 percent liberal, 35 percent conservative, and the rest in between, and those numbers have been rock-steady for decades. So where’s the conservative revolution?

Well, that’s kind of reassuring. If Kevin Drum is right, we’re still winning, and even with the flop that is Bush, there is hope. Now if we could just get back some of the billions he gave away in tax cuts and restore them for social security….

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