I often hear the far right tell me of their love for Reagan and that particular presidents vision. They place him on a high pedestal and often compare themselves and their works to him and his. Reagan is seen by the right as the president upon which all others are to be judged. In their eyes he is the receptacle that holds conservative wisdom. He is the Jedi in which the force was at its zenith. He is Frodo who’s strength and perseverance brought the evil empire of Sauron to its knees. He is Muad’Dib, AKA Paul Atreides who conquered the Harkonens, restored peace to the solar system, and controlled the spice.
To them Reagan’s force was his conservatism, his evil empire was Russia, and his peace the ending of the cold war and restoration of all that is good. In their eyes he did these things by standing tough in the face of liberal ideas. He did this by calling out Russia to “tear down this wall.” He did this by cutting taxes to the wealthy and instituting trickle down economics. But, as is the way of things, there are holes in this little belief system the right wingers espouse.
Perception often becomes reality, especially when surrounded by the faithful. And perception will brook no dissension in the ranks from a realistic assessment of the facts. Fortunately I am not a part of the ranks in this particular case, or any other case really.
I have said in the past that I disliked Reagan and thought him a bad president and an annoying human. There were moments in my formative years when I disagreed with his mandates, namely when he raised the drinking age across the nation through threats and blackmail taking all the young, pretty. drunk. women out of bars, but I cannot say I truly knew his real politics. I believe what I have come to hate about Ronald Reagan is not the man or his politics himself but the current right wing perception thereof. I am tired of hearing of how great the man was from people I have absolutely no respect for as they cite him for inspiring the policies and practices I loathe in the right wing.
All it took was a little casual digging to find the truth of the matter. The truth seems to be that Reagan was responsible for many things the current right wing would find wholly unacceptable. Many of the things being preached against by their crop of pretenders to the throne were part of the Reagan presidency.
Trump would like us to build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, and deport 12 million or so people, some of whom are American citizens. Somehow Trump will do all this without spending a massive sum of money on agents and facilities and transportation. Somehow this deportation of people currently doing jobs for little pay will cause no harm to the economy. Somehow the wall will be free, because Mexico will pay for it. This same wall though will apparently be run by the United States because countries that pay for things often let other nations have them like when, hmm, no other nation ever, gave us things they built, for us to operate. Oh, and I assume the wall’s upkeep is also to be paid for in perpetuity by Mexico, because, that makes sense.
Reagan, on the other hand, signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, a bipartisan immigration reform bill that created a pathway to citizenship for 3 million undocumented immigrants. He also made the now famous demand of Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” in reference to a wall separating east and west Berlin which was a symbol of communism and isolationist principles. Reagan stated in a video I posted a couple days ago on this blog that we should strive to get along with our neighbors to the south. We should create work visa’s so people can enter, work legally, and return home with no criminality attached. Reagan signed the emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the law barring hospitals from turning away patients on grounds of their insurance or citizenship. It doesn’t seem he thought of immigration, or the world in general, as a situation that would benefit from walls and a lack of understanding.
When it comes to health care every GOP candidate claims day one they will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Reagan, while he did not institute such a policy, put in place EMTALA as stated above. This allowed people to go to an emergency room and receive treatment regardless of citizenship or ability to pay. Sounds a little like a socialized medical system to me. Reagan also doubled the size of Medicaid over the course of his presidency. Reagan also pushed something called Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs), which essentially had the government set the prices Medicare was willing to pay for each Medicare admission rather than reimburse doctors per cost. DRGs cut Medicare costs by $49 billion by 1986, proving a promising trial for the sorts of Medicare payment reform policies you can find in the ACA.
Reagan also did the unthinkable! Reagan actually worked to ban automatic weapons as until 1986 citizens were allowed to own fully automatic weapons. To do this Reagan signed the firearm owners protection act. Reagan also backed the Brady Bill which established many restrictions of gun purchases still in place today. Now one could argue, and well, that this was a direct result of the attempt on Reagan’s life which also created a victim of James Brady, the bills namesake. Being shot brings a certain level of clarity to a situation I would imagine.
Reagan also went to the bargaining table with Russia, then the evil godless communist empire. He did this to help control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The negotiations eventually turned into the START treaty which created reductions and limitations in strategic offensive arms. It expired in 09 and was replaced by NEW START 2 against bitter rejections by some sitting republicans.
Reagan also negotiated the Montreal Protocol to clamp down on ozone depleting technology when it was discovered, by then scientists, that we had a significant problem with holes int he ozone layer. Yes, you read that correctly. Reagan, a republican, conservative, christian, considered the father of the modern republican party, had scientists tell him there was a problem with the world’s ozone layer and he acted to fix it. He didn’t deny humans had a part nor did he cite the cost to corporations of righting the wrong as a barrier. He actually took action, and some of this action still aids us in the battle against climate change that republicans spend their every waking moment denying. Reagan believed science. Amazing isn’t it?
Reagan despised the tax loopholes of the wealthy saying “Tax loopholes, sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy.” It’s crazy, he said, because the “truly wealthy” were avoiding “paying their fair share.” Which is a decidedly anti republican position now. It is called socialism. It is deemed unamerican to suggest the wealthy pay their fair share. It is considered anti-patriotic to suggest the wealthy manipulate the system to maintain and produce continued wealth.
There are other examples of Reagan being a republican conservative christian and actually showing those principles for what they should be. The party has not only left those principles behind they have replaced them with others 180 degrees away.
The former president’s son has some thoughts on whether his father would be accepted in the current iteration of the party. “The question arises as to whether he would be welcomed into today’s republican party.” He continues with “I think if you look at the record, when he was governor of California he signed a liberal abortion law. As president he raised taxes after he cut them. He found out that cutting them didn’t really work. Amnesty for 3 million immigrants. Two hundred marines killed in Lebanon, the barracks bombing. He did not go to war in Iraq as a result. And when an ozone hole opened up over the South Pole due to us putting chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere, that is a refrigerant of course, he did not decide that this was a liberal hoax designed to deprive us of cold beer. He actually did something about it and encouraged everybody else to do something too.”
So I ask those in the republican party. If you are going to hold this man up as the party savior in the wake of Nixon, why then do you not adopt some of his actual thoughts? You were elected to office to work for, and fight for, the people yet you continually throw them under the bus. You preach fiscal responsibility and wish to start wars and build walls, deport millions, and maintain a failed war on drugs, any and all of which will cost billions upon billions. You cry out for personal freedoms and yet wish to end marriage equality, abortion, and the existence of Muslims in this nation. You cry for the aborted fetuses as lives of our young being murdered, and support war after war where the lives of our young people are being ended. You again cry for the lives of aborted fetuses and yet deny access to welfare and food stamps to the mothers you would force these children upon, you call these women, these mothers, either murderers or freeloaders dependent upon which choice they make while you taunt them with your pretend christian ethics and morals denying them access to any and all forms of christian charity. You cry for the religious liberty you claim you are denied while banning an entire religion access and movement about this nation. You speak of your pro life stance out of one face while the other wishes to abolish the only real attempt at health care reform this nation has made because you wish to return to a system designed to prevent access to health care to the lower classes in favor of big money and insurance entities. How can denying health care access to the poor be a pro-life position?
Essentially you lie to the people you are here to protect and you get a portion of them to believe. You offer them God and guns and they vote for you. Everyone that does not believe or buy into your lies is labeled as unpatriotic. They are labeled a sheep following the masses blindly. Who are the actually sheep though? And who are the actual herders? You merely need a mirror to answer those questions.
Sounds to me like the people on the right could actually use a Ronald Reagan. The problem with that thought is they could use the real Ronald Reagan and not the one they have invented to justify their party of hate and fear. I do not even begin to suggest that Reagan was the greatest president ever, or even top 10, but compared with the current republican party he was leaps and bounds above them as a politician and a human being. Reagan was about hope and the shining city on the hill while the current GOP are about money, corporations, the gun lobby, and the oppression of the poor. I agree with Ron Reagan in that his father would not recognize these people or this party as the one he held the nations highest office for. I didn’t know the man but I have a feeling he would prefer they stop using his name to validate their vile politics.