There's no good time to celebrate Nancy Reagan, but especially not now

The world simply does not need a Nancy Reagan stamp collection during Pride month. Or ever, really.

Nancy Reagan dans une rue de la vieille ville de Varsovie, en septembre 1990. (Photo by Georges DE K...
Georges DE KEERLE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

One of the most frustrating tendencies of the Biden Administration is its quixotic push to lionize the norms and civility of yesteryear as some sort of ideal state of American politics. Sure there used to be the very same rampant racism and homophobia and economic disparity and exploitation along with a host of other disgraceful tendencies that we see now, but hey, at least people were polite about it, right folks? It’s this that animates the president’s insistence on drawing a distinction-without-a-difference line between “ultra-MAGA” republicans and ostensibly more reasonable ones (even if he keeps finding himself shocked — SHOCKED! — at the fact that there’s really no such thing) and it’s that same general pattern of rose colored nostalgia which seems to be behind the absolutely baffling decision to make a big show of unveiling a brand new postage stamp commemorating former First Lady Nancy Reagan when, instead, the White House could simply do... well, not that.

To be clear, there are lots of things current First Lady Jill Biden could say about her predecessor. She could say, for example, that Nancy Reagan stood by as her husband’s administration demonized gay people — herself saying that to be gay was a “sickness” and an “abnormality” — all while ignoring the growing AIDS crisis, horribly bungling issues of substance abuse, and generally making the country a worse place to be. She could say Reagan was a world class hypocrite for her private embrace of the queer community while simultaneously distancing from them in public.

Biden could say all those things, and then say that perhaps throwing a big public to-do for this person in the first week of national PRIDE month is the sort of tactless, unforced error that should have been nixed the moment it was suggested. She could say all that. But she won’t. Instead she’ll stand in front of the White House next to the very person currently poisoning the United States Postal Service from within, and say very nice things about her predecessor, because that’s what civility is all about: praising people who were bad, simply because it might make people uncomfortable to acknowledge that badness.

Jill Biden, like her husband, seems committed to this notion that the public really wants to see its most powerful class of people holding hands and singing “kumbaya” together, rather than see the people they elected go to the mat to actually get substantive work done. People want progress. Instead, they’re getting a stamp.