David Sirota: Mandate '08 ... Reagan vs. FDR





No, John McCain and Barack Obama have made the race's final weeks an ideological proxy war between two presidential icons who still loom larger than them: Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt.

McCain promises to "follow in [Reagan's] tradition and in his footsteps" while vilifying Obama as a 1930s-era "socialist" looking to "redistribute wealth." Obama counters by invoking Roosevelt's speeches and depicting the financial meltdown as "the final verdict" on McCain's "failed philosophy" (i.e., Reaganism).

Mind you, neither personifies these predecessors. Obama's moderate record is not FDR's quasi-socialism, and McCain has renounced some of his Reagan-inspired dogma.

Both also ignore inconsistencies. Obama criticizes the "failed philosophy" of Reagan conservatism while infusing some of his own prescriptions with such conservatism. McCain attacks Obama's "socialism" after voting for the bank bailout bill - the most aggressive stroke of socialism in contemporary American history.

But all that is less important right now than the duo's binary framing. They both effectively say a vote for McCain is a vote to continue Reagan's trickle-down tax cuts and free-market fundamentalism, and a vote for Obama is a vote to resurrect Roosevelt's regulations and redistributions. And because this choice has been made so clear - because we know what we're voting on - whoever wins will have a huge mandate to implement the ideology he thematically represented.

That's why conservatives are so worried.

They see the cause and effect: As McCain doubles down on the right's economic catechism, Obama is surging. Even in traditional Gipper territory like Colorado and Virginia, the Rooseveltian Socialist is running ahead of Reagan Reincarnate....


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