In the February 26 New York Times David Leonhardt referred to Obama's new budget proposal as a "Bold Plan" to sweep away three decades of ideas attributable to Ronald Reagan.
To political strategists such as David Axelrod as well as economic gurus like Paul Krugman, this effort marks a necessary paradigm shift connected to a symbol in Reagan.
This represented in itself a bold new transition away from old ideas labeled "tax and spend" into a new era of individual initiative and responsibility led by a "citizen politician" in Reagan.
From the time that Reagan, following long rehearsal and preparation, announced his candidacy for governor of California in 1966, Golden State public relations expert Stuart Spencer along with partner Bill Roberts recognized that the key to marketing the former actor and host of television programs such as Death Valley Days and General Electric Theater was timing combined with astute use of corporate contributions.
These efforts implemented into the minds of Golden State voters a salable and clear cut image designed to achieve success.
The timing was perfect in 1966. Not only was it a mid-term election following a landslide of glacial proportions by President Lyndon Johnson, enhancing the prospect of enhancing Republican victories at the national and state levels.
There was also widespread dissatisfaction over the continuing Vietnam War that worked against Johnson and Democrats.
In 1966 the opportunity arose for a candidate accustomed to following scripts and speaking in clear, well modulated tones to voice the flavor of discontent that resounded to the rafters in the Peter Finch legendary performance in "Network" a decade later and the message, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"
Reagan painted himself as an embodiment of citizen politics working outside a tainted system of professional politicians glutted with self-aggrandizement.
The former actor fit himself into the designated syndrome of a hero from the Frank Capra pre-World War Two movies embodied by James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and Gary Cooper in "Meet John Doe."
The key on the part of the wily Spencer was to moderate Reagan's image as well, abandoning that of former hard right cause spokesperson, the Reagan who opposed Social Security and spoke at causes on behalf of the John Birch Society and Dr. Fred Schwarz' Christian Anti-Communist Crusade.
The upshot of the skilled, well financed public relations campaign and faux paradigm shift to government led by the common man as citizen politician was a smooth talking messenger programmed by a group referred to by longtime Reagan watcher and ultimate biographer Lou Cannon as the "Kitchen Cabinet," a group known for its financial largesse.
It included the likes of Henry Salvatori, Holmes Tuttle and Jack Wrather. There was plenty of big oil clout from Reagan's advisers.
The Reagan two term stewardship in California spoke common sense populism and containing government costs while actually running up deficits and providing Californians with frequent tax increases.
It was up to Reagan's successor Jerry Brown to take up the "less government can be better" to bring the state back to the consistent growth, keep government costs reasonable that his father, known as Pat Brown Sr., had delivered in fact while the Spencer-Roberts public relations machine fuzzed up reality.
California liberals used to make a joking reference to Reagan becoming president so they could "share him with the other forty-nine states."
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