It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.
Whatever you want to say about Ronald Reagan, he wasn’t this kind of pessimist. His outlook was anchored in deeply positive expectations about the future of the country. Compare that to the current crop of Republicans, along with Fox News, who are almost entirely motivated by fear and resentment. They are deeply butthurt about losing the White House and the healthcare reform fight. They fetishize small government to the point that they see little or no government role in fixing any of our current problems. And the social conservatives in the party just emanate a general sourness. All this has led to a crop of Republicans who come off as the polar opposite of the man they venerate.
There’s not a lot to be positive about in the current economic climate, but it’s not unrealistic or naive to be hopeful about the future of America. We have had periods of massive dysfunction before (for example, if you’ve been watching Prohibition this week, it’s hard to see how our current political climate is any worse than what happened then), and we’ve recovered. It’s not Obama’s or the Democrats’ nature to be sunny optimists, but it doesn’t take much to serve as an alternative to the current Republican Party. A few words about some of the success of the past four years (like saving the US auto industry), a set of plans for future success, an occasional smile, and a little bit of good humor is all it takes to outshine Republicans in the optimism department. They are a truly humorless and negative bunch, and when we’re cataloging the ways they’re not like Reagan, it’s worth remembering and mentioning this characteristic.