20 February 2011

The Reagan Stamp

The ironies of contemporary conservatism are manifold, but nowhere are they better displayed than in the concept of the Reagan Centennial Stamp.

I ran out of my normal "Forever" stamps the other day, and so I bought instead four sheaves of the new Reagan stamp, largely because it would multivocally tickle my liberal and my conservative friends. On the reverse of each set is a potted biography of Reagan, which credits him with "bolstering the conservative movement" and "moving it from the margins to the mainstream of politics and government." In a very neat bit of wordsmithing, the author(s) avoid the touchy subject of Reagan's failure to best the establishment in 1968 and 1976:
Reagan launched his political career in a nationally televised address in 1964 endorsing the conservative Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. He later served as governor of California and became a candidate for President. In 1980, Reagan defeated the incumbent President Jimmy Carter in the general election and was sworn into office on January 20, 1981.
Because it's a beautiful day and I have better things to do, I won't even point out the abuse of the appositive (it should be "the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter," of course).

What's really astonishing, though, is the next paragraph, which contains this deathless bit of prose: "In his Inaugural Address, he declared, 'Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.'" And here we have the irony of contemporary conservative discourse in a nutshell: This is a sentence printed by a government agency (no, the USPS is not a private corporation) that decries the necessity of government while appropriating the power of the state for commemorative and partisan ends.

Well done. Insincere government-hating requires an impressive amount of cognitive dissonance, but the right has squared the circle.