Reaganomics’ Magical Mystery Tour
The re-election of Ronald Reagan will unleash new debate on the causes of the continuing conservative ascendancy in North America and Western Europe. Following in the well-worn grooves of discussions in 1980–1, some will stress the renewed importance of a reactionary-populist social discourse centred on ‘right to life’, family traditionalism and religious obscurantism. Others, particularly sensitive to its impact on the vulnerable minds of the video-game generation, will emphasize the hallucinatory euphoria of the patriotic revival enacted in the Los Angeles Coliseum and on a small Caribbean island. Still others—conscious that the media remain, more than ever, their own message—will place greatest weight on the Hollywoodization of the presidency abetted by a sycophantic news establishment. Each of these optics focuses on an important set of factors. Yet, squatting awkwardly astride all refinements in the analysis of political discourse, is the simple, massive fact of the Reagan ‘boom’ and its mobilization of economic self-interest. All the major pre-election polls, as well as the network ‘exit’ polls on 6 November, revealed the paramount importance of the ‘comfort/discomfort’ index of family economic position in orienting voter affinity. Some 60% of voters who thought the economy was better off than in 1980 landslided to Reagan by a margin of six to one, while, conversely, the 40% who thought the economy, or themselves, worse off swung to Mondale by four to one. The overriding role of the prosperity issue—especially in an election where the Democratic candidate so successfully obfuscated the war-and-peace dimension—was demonstrated by the fact that over a fifth of Reagan voters indicated that they had ‘strong disagreements’ with the incumbent over foreign policy or social issues, but gambled on his continued management of the recovery. There remains vulgar irony in the fact that it was Reagan’s lusty embrace of that false god of the Democrats—John Maynard Keynes—that guaranteed his re-election, while Mondale and the afl-cio once again looked like Republicans in their conservative insistence on fiscal probity and restrained growth.
’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’
By the same author:
The Year 1960
Prelude to the explosive struggles of the sixties in California, as the social actors, left and right, gather in the wings. Black student militants, white aerospace workers, City developers, RAND Corps dropouts, Latino activists—and Lena Horne, taking direct action against racism in Beverley Hills.
Opening an NLR symposium on the US transition, Mike Davis argues the vote was not a critical realignment but a razor-thin margin for the Republican, mobilizing rustbelt discontent while locking in the Christian right.
The Coming Desert
Episodes from the history of climate science, where discoveries of secular planetary variation—ice ages, desiccation—have always alternated with emphases on human depredation. Mike Davis draws back the curtain on the landmark contribution of the great anarchist geographer Pyotr Kropotkin, penned from a Tsarist prison.
Marx’s Lost Theory
In a landmark re-reading of Class Struggles in France and The Eighteenth Brumaire, Mike Davis draws out the theoretical propositions on class and nation, world-market and inter-state rivalry, that underpin the seminal political writings. Repudiation of politics as discourse pur, and revaluation of Marx’s ‘middle-level concepts’ for the mediated expression of complex social interests.
The Last White Election?
Panoramic survey of America’s political landscape as revealed by November’s vote, with age, gender, ethnicity and geography the volatile determinants of Obama’s victory. Within an increasingly polarized ideological force field, how will the coming struggles unfold between Democratic President and Senate and a Republican House, itself consumed by turmoil?
Spring Confronts Winter
Echoes of past rebellions in 2011’s global upsurge of protest. Against a backdrop of world economic slump, what forces will shape the outcome of contests between a raddled system and its emergent challengers?
Who Will Build the Ark?
Copenhagen’s charades dispel any illusion that world rulers intend to deal with the environmental damage industrialization has caused. Mike Davis argues that green urbanism’s twining of social equality and ecological sustainability could offer an alternative starting-point.
Obama at Manassas
Does Obama’s victory signal a political turning point comparable to 1980 or 1932? Mike Davis maps county-level changes, from below—minority-majority demographics, subprime suburbs, white-collar financial worries—catalysed by the 2008 campaign. From above, realignment of American capital behind the Silicon President.
The Democrats After November
With anti-war sentiment growing—if still passive—in the US, how will Democrats use their recapture of Congress? Mike Davis analyses likely outcomes on the questions—Iraq, corruption, economic insecurity—that confront a Party leadership hooked on corporate dollars, and myopically gazing towards 2008.
Fear and Money in Dubai
On the rim of the war zone, a new Mecca of conspicuous consumption and economic crime, under the iron rule of Sheikh al-Maktoum. Skyscrapers half a mile high, artificial archipelagoes, fantasy theme parks—and the indentured Asian labour force that sustains them.