Have you noticed how Republicans become sexually aroused whenever they hear the holy name of Ronald Reagan (blessings and peace be upon him)? Women get moist, and men get erections. They worship this guy like he was the second coming (no pun intended) of Jesus Christ Almighty. Why is this? Until George W. Bush came along, he was hands-down the worst President in U.S. history, if you examine his policies and the effect they had on this country. He showed the kind of man he was in the 1950s, during the McCarthy red scare, when he didn’t hesitate to rat out several of his colleagues in the film industry. Then in 1964, this jackass brayed on about how passing the Medicare Act would lead us down the road to socialism.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, we had a strong middle class. Nearly a third of the workforce was unionized, and this forced other employers to offer decent wages and benefits, in order to compete. America was a “we” society then. There was a social contract between the government and the people – – get an education, work hard, keep your nose clean, and you can participate in the American Dream. If somehow you slip through the cracks, through no fault of your own, we’ll be there to catch you.
Then came Reagan, and his “morning in America”, in which the wrecking ball began to dismantle the unions. It was the first step in the destruction of the middle class. Now there was a new social contract – – if you ain’t rich, you’re on your own. A new expression entered the national lexicon – – “the ME decade”. For the first time in modern history, he made it socially acceptable to ignore, and even despise, the poor and unfortunate among us. Myths were invented to reinforce this idea, such as the Welfare Queen in her Cadillac (the added implication being that she was also fat and black).
Reagan’s policies caused an explosion in the homeless population. Federal funding was cut to the nation’s mental institutions, leaving them no alternative than to put the mentally ill out on the streets. They joined a growing number of Vietnam veterans.
Today’s Republicans in Congress, nearly all of which have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to NEVER raise taxes, have conveniently forgotten that Reagan raised taxes eleven times in his eight years. In fact, he was the first President ever to raise taxes on the poor and working class, while simultaneously cutting taxes on the rich.
He projected the image of a strong leader, which appealed to the authoritarian mind-set of conservatives. He was called “The Great Communicator”, and it’s true that he was a brilliant speaker, when he had a prepared text in front of him. He knew how to tell people just what they wanted to hear. In the wake of the Iran Hostage crisis, he was able to make Americans feel good about themselves again, by filling their heads with the most godawful mush and pablum. [Let’s not even get into how his operatives made a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the 1980 election; a treasonous act. And let us not speak of the Iran-Contra affair, which followed, with its man high crimes and misdemeanors].
When he had to improvise, though, such as at press conferences, the real Reagan was revealed – – a doddering old fart-bag, with an extremely tenuous grip on reality. That he was suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s became evident during his second term. This was a sad and tragic circumstance, and I won’t make light of it. But his tendency to confuse his fuzzy anecdotes with scenes from his early movies was, at best, unsettling.
His political instincts were sharp though, if disingenuous. The prime example was his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech, after the wall was already in the process of being demolished, and the Soviet Union was in free-fall. It’s all too reminiscent of the cliché about the politician who, seeing a parade passing by, runs around to get in front of it.
Were the 1980 Reagan to appear today, these same Republicans who prostrate themselves before his graven image, would throw his ass off their crazy train, for being too moderate. So let’s shine some sunlight on this phony legend. He was a ham actor, a windbag, a useful idiot, a goofy hairdo. If you want to know why unions are all but gone and the middle class has become the working poor, you can thank Ronald Reagan, our first fake cowboy President, and thirty years of Reaganomics. That’s why Republicans continue to idolize him; they’d be happy to see him canonized. I think that’s a great idea. I think we should dig up his remains, stuff them into a giant cannon, and shoot him out into Death Valley.