Curtis Dahlgren
'We were wrong about the President'—Peggy Noonan
By Curtis Dahlgren
November 6, 2021

(November 6 is the anniversary of the 1984 49-state landslide.)

"Black people don't have to be Democrats." – Chance the Rapper

The winter's passed,
The summer's here.
For this we thank
Our party dear!
– humor back in the old USSR

THEY CALL THE PRESIDENT STUPID. They call him unfit, unsophisticated, a blowhard who believes in "a mythic America that was never great." One consultant told a Georgetown gathering that the President is an affable dunce. Others call him the "incoherent cretin," an embarrassment to us, and "a danger to world peace." A clever writer says that da Prez is "senile, and senility is a communicable disease." A female CBS news anchor says:

    "I predict historians are going to be totally baffled by how the American people fell in love with this man."

A Hollywood producer-actor called him cunning, but said it was "human" cunning ("animal cunning is too fine an expression for him"). Even his own former speech writer writes that "the war for the President's mind" was like trench warfare in WWI – "never had so many fought so hard for such barren terrain...[but]

"I was wrong. We were wrong."

Congressman Rostenkowski said that the President was a paradox, that while he wanted smaller government: "[He's] got almost every monument in the world named after him."

YES – we're talking about President Reagan here, although it sounds like Trump, too. The opening paragraph above is a paraphrase from Peggy Noonan's "When Character Was King," another book I got from a public library for peanuts. Tip O'Neil called Reagan "an absolute and utter disgrace" and said that for him to be our leader was "a sin."

Then the "disgrace" addressed a joint session of Congress and 40 brave Democrats stood and applauded him. Reagan said a shiver went down his spine, and "it was almost worth getting shot," as he had been shortly before that. He got his tax cuts with the cooperation of Tip O'Neil and many Democrats.

Talk about paradoxical, the Gipper was the funniest President since Abraham Lincoln (if you can visualize that). And Reagan collected actual jokes from behind the Iron Curtain. Some of them are in a little book called (I think) "Humor from the Soviet Union." I misplaced my copy, but if you search that phrase, you will get to "Russian Political Jokes" at Wikipedia. Here are a few joke examples:

    A judge walks out of his chambers laughing his head off. A colleague approaches him and asks why he is laughing. "I just heard the funniest joke in the world," is the reply. The other judge asks him to tell the joke, and the first judge says: "I can't. I just gave someone ten years for it!"

Solzhenitsyn analyzed the humor of zeks (prisoners in Siberia). Examples:

    When the quarter-century term had become the standard sentence for violating Article 58, the standard joke was "Twenty-five years of life are now guaranteed you." When someone asked for "more" of something, e.g. more vodka, the typical reply was "The prosecutor will give you more."

"Prosecutor" was a dirty word back in the "good old USSR" (itself a four-letter word). History is becoming repetitious again back in the land of the free and the home of the brave (you have to be pretty brave to stand up to the news media, or, Pravda Lite). History books for our public schools aren't even waiting for Trump to leave office; they're already saying that his supporters were uneducated, old, and paranoid. In other words, they'll soon die off!

They were wrong. "They were wrong!"

Q: How do you deal with mice in the Kremlin?

A: Put up a sign saying "collective farm." Half the mice will starve, and the rest will run away.

That reminds me of the old truth, "I don't care if the cat is black or white as long as it's a good mouser." Which brings us back to the point of the title: Do pink (or purple) people "have to" belong to any certain party? Reagan liked to tell the joke about – he told many of them over and over – the farmer who heckled a political speaker, who asked, "What is your party, sir?" The farmer says, "I'm a Republican and my father was a Republican and his father before him was a Republican."

The speaker said, "Isn't it sad that you can't think for yourself? What would you have been if your father was a jackass and his father was a jackass?"

"A Democrat," says the farmer.

Not many Presidents could get away with some of Reagan's jokes, but he had been a Democrat, as was his whole family, you know. He joked about an uncle of his who supposedly got a letter from the party thanking him for voting in 15 consecutive elections. Reagan said his uncle had been dead for 14 years. And my point is – ?

My point is a dumb question: How many voters today "think for themselves"? And how many are "forced" by peer pressure? When Kanye West complimented Trump and Chance said that black people don't "have to be" Democrats, their peers should have let a sleeping snoop dog lie; they only spread the word by criticizing Chance and West! The novelty of the premise, you are allowed to think for yourself, could spread like wildfire.

Reagan thought the genius of America was that it was the place where genius was allowed. Noonan wrote, "That's what freedom is in part, the freedom to be silly...and creative, and to imagine. And so [Reagan] never saw history as static, as sitting there like a dry and dusty plain. He saw it as something you could change." AMEN!

P.S. "He felt he had to approach the Soviets with a dove in one hand and a sword in the other," writes Peggy Noonan. And he never won a Nobel Peace Prize, did he? Shame on them! Reagan's old nemesis in the Congress, Rosty Rostenkowski said to her:

    "I don't say this uncomplimentary, but he was not a sophisticated member of the eastern seaboard intellectual fraternity. He was a sensible person who spoke to the ordinary man. They understood him.... He was very bold – the Evil Empire. And I'm not going to say that I agree with you and your contemporaries that he was one of the greatest presidents – but he was a good president. He brought the country back to terra firma."

PPS: If any Democrats said that today about President Trump, they would be run right out of the party.

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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