Poor Ronnie: He was shot at, worked to tear down a wall, tried to keep America warm with his sunny charisma during the Cold War, found himself in the middle of an affair with some Contras and eventually forgot the whole darn thing. And here we are trying to dig him up again to save the country. It makes you wonder if Nancy Reagan’s personal astrologer saw a myriad of future lives for her husband, leaving her to ponder if Ronnie was destined for repeated political reincarnations for decades to come.
In 2008, presidential candidates from both parties eagerly grabbed shovels and started digging in the graveyard of ex-presidents for campaign comparisons and rhetoric. At one point, then-candidate Obama donned the plastic Halloween masks of several dead presidents. During a local interview with another newspaper, Mr. Obama likened himself to Honest Abe, FDR and the Great Communicator, Reagan. Never mind that at the time the rookie senator’s meager political experience was nearly dwarfed in comparison by a certain Alaska governor. In the hall of mirrors that was and is Obama’s fantastic ego, he was the modern equivalent of a three-headed hydra of presidential superpowers. In his mind, he could have ducked Abe’s assassination bullet Matrix-style, risen from Roosevelt’s wheelchair to walk and torn down the Berlin wall simply by mocking it into concrete submission.
Nevertheless, in 2008 it can be said that Obama out-Reagan-ed the other Reagan wannabes and won Ronnie’s former house as his prize. However, with the ghostly whispers starting up again already for 2012, it looks like we’re in for a wannabe Reagan rematch.
In one corner, we have the reigning Reagan (in his own mind), President Obama. His economic policy hasn’t trickled down, or up, or anywhere, as the water has long been turned off leaving us parched, fatigued and slightly disoriented. And he has built more walls than he’s torn down. Fortunately though, the only arms affairs we know of involve Michelle’s ever-bulging guns, as our military guns decrease.
The opposing corner features a mixed field of GOP wannabe Reagan hopefuls, with some old faces, some even older and a few new ones, along with the usual pack of boys and girls strategically circling the existing pack, many crying wolf the whole time. There are also a few grizzled political veterans who can legitimately say, “I knew Ronald Reagan and you sir (or madam) are no Ronald Reagan.”
The self-proclaimed star of the GOP corner of the 2012 ring, however, might be the candidate least in need of a plastic Reagan mask. Mitt Romney might not have Reagan’s acting pedigree, but he certainly knows how to put on a show. Like a trained thespian, Romney has mastered a different emotional preparation to slap onto his smiling, Reagan-esque, charismatic face for each campaign moment. From the classic “Do you see how presidential I’m looking now?” to his versatile “man of the people in emotional flannel” (one in which he typically attempts his version of relaxed candor), Romney is clearly serious about being the Reagan-iest of the Reagans. He seems determined to take on the current self-proclaimed impersonator in the White House and showing America once and for all what it would be like if Reagan was indeed reincarnated to tackle America’s problems.
Many pundits insist that by today’s party standards, Reagan himself would be considered liberal. Romney-Reagan would put this theory to rest, taking everything that Reagan said, did and believed and injecting it with the highest potency of far-right super-conservative steroids. Just for good measure, Romney-Reagan might even have his picture taken waving a cowboy hat while straddling a bomb with Gaddafi’s name on it.
My point is this: Can we stop trying to channel dead presidents and start figuring out solutions to our very living, breathing present-day problems?
In the movie “Point Break,” robbers donned the plastic masks of ex and dead presidents to hide their identities as they robbed banks blind. Isn’t this what our politicians are doing to us? Except they don’t need getaway cars; our votes and tolerance provide door-to-door limousine service to the banks.
For the debates leading up to the 2012 election, I propose that each candidate don the plastic mask of the dead president he or she would prefer us to see. In Obama’s case, as current pretender-in-chief, he gets to change masks on commercial breaks to reflect the dead president he most wishes could come back to fix the problems that he clearly cannot. It’s Halloween in America.
Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.