A salute to the Republican Decade



Right now CNN is celebrating the 1980s through some dishonest TV documentary series.

But there are other opinions about what that decade really meant. A quick selection here:


M*A*S*H was a huge success for Fox—so much so that it spawned a TV series based on the film, which ran for more than a decade. Despite the success of the franchise he helped create, Altman was never a fan of the series.

“I wouldn’t even mess around with that television series,” Altman said. “I mean, I’ve never seen one of those episodes all the way through—never seen one. I don’t like it, and I don’t like any of those people.”

Peter Biskind relates a story from the mid-’80s when Kael turned to Richard Schickel at a meeting of film critics and said, “It isn’t any fun anymore.” Mr. Schickel asked her why and she replied: “Remember how it was in the ’60s and ’70s, when movies were hot, when we were hot? Movies seemed to matter.”

God, I hated the 80s. Worst decade ever.

Worst president. Worst frikking holocaust (plague) Worst music (hideous punk rock trying desperately too hard to carve a new generational identity in a post-disco world) Worst fashion (feathered hair on women and mullets)
no wonder that generation is fucked up and bitter.

And so, beginning in the ’80s, university administrators, their words dutifully transcribed by journalists, blamed utility bills for soaring tuition. They blamed libraries, which made a certain amount of sense until libraries went dramatically out of fashion in the Internet age—and yet still tuition prices went up.

They blamed professors, of course, since professors are the most visible part of a university and because it’s easy to hate professors. Sometimes university spokesmen would claim that colleges were being forced to spend a lot in order to hire the very best professors, an academic echo of the reasoning corporate America uses to explain fat executive salaries.

This kind of swill is reaching high tide these days. Chris Matthews is out there touring a book in which he basks in the rosy glow of his memories of how Tip O’Neill and Ronnie Reagan used to “work together” to “make politics work,” blithely ignoring the facts that a) O’Neill stood silent and impotent in the immediate aftermath of Reagan’s election, and that the first Reagan budget — the one that did all the damage and that embedded supply-side fantasies into our politics for good — sailed through a Democratic House of Representatives while O’Neill squashed some good people’s attempts to stop it, and b) that what the redoubtable Digby calls TipNronnie only came to the fore when that first Reagan budget exploded the deficit, threw the country into a recession and Reagan’s approval ratings so far into the abyss that the Democrats made big wins in the 1982 midterms, which O’Neill utilized to help save Reagan’s presidency.

Yeah, they “worked together,” and the result, in addition to the deal on Social Security, was that O’Neill helped legitimize politics and policies that produced the generation of Republicans currently vandalizing our politics. (The late Walter Karp’s work on this period, and on O’Neill’s abandonment of President Jimmy Carter that led up to it, is an invaluable corrective to what Matthews is currently peddling.) And old friend of the blog Clio, Muse Of History, often known by her Marvel superhero identity as The Proclaimer (!), is seen wandering by the docks of Delphi, swilling Ouzo out of the bottle, and singing sad songs to sailors of a ‘Lude and a kind word.

It was also a horrible decade for Burbank. Shall we make a list as to why?




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3 responses to “A salute to the Republican Decade

  1. Anonymous

    The 80s were a cultural nosedive from which we have yet to recover… Hell, it’s likely there won’t be a recovery….

  2. chad

    Cultural and political, Anon. Nosedive indeed. Well said. But hey, Semi, America’s leading historian, Tom Hanks, is producing the series. I’m sure it has some profound historical insights. Like, the importance of Ron Howard’s early directing career with film like Splash.

    • semichorus

      I actually knew Tom Hanks when I was a little kid. He had a cousin across the street from where I lived that he and his sister used to visit every once in a while. His sister’s name was Sandy I think. I knew her a little better.

      Strange family background, with a heavy Portuguese influence from the Monterey Bay area. The parents were split up. Very nice kid too, a gentle soul. An old soul for his age. Like a little philosopher.

      But yes, that was back in the days when people weren’t so eagerly establishment, especially in Northern California. Something got changed over the years, as it did with most people. I really HATED the 80s and what it did.

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