Democratic Underground

The Rotting Reputation of Ronald Reagan, Part 2: The Legacy of Deception and Division
June 26, 2001

Read Part 1: Prologue to a Lethal Legacy

Ronald Reagan was a bit of a pioneer when it came to politics - after all, he discovered that the proverbial back exit in the actor's studio was also a back entrance into the political arena. He was also highly ambitious, but I won't extend that as a compliment. Reagan was extremely impoverished while growing up. In destitute conditions such suffering can make a person a merciful saint - or in his case a very dangerous person who is without mercy and will prevail upon the weak and helpless to suit his own goals. He stopped at nothing because he wouldn't let anything like morals and restraint prevent him from accomplishing what he wanted to.

Back in 1932 Reagan had a job in radio broadcasting recreating baseball games for the Chicago Cubs. Even though he wasn't actually present at many games, it was still his job to make radio a little more exciting by giving the audience the feel of being at a live baseball game. Of course that's not a crime. That's showbiz. "Dutch" Reagan as he was known back then managed to distinguish himself tremendously in this line of work.

On one occasion it turned out that for one reason or another he didn't get an entire game he had to rebroadcast. Nevertheless, the people had to be entertained. So entertain them he did - by making up his own play-by-plays as he went along. As it turned out not only was he gifted with his voice but also quite creative. His imagination crafted a level of suspense and excitement absent from your typical game of Major League Baseball.

It was only a baseball game yet you had to give credit to a man who could pull a stunt like that on the American public and get away with it. It turned out to be something of an M.O. for him as he made his way into politics by using that same appeal on people's hearts and minds with abundant ease.

Reagan realized that people will believe a bigger lie than a small one. He was a wizard of propaganda and launched the media machine that would eventually stop reporting news and start behaving more like the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell's 1984.

The Cold War mentality was also at a level not seen since the McCarthy era, and was useful to isolate Democrats and liberals alike while casting them as "commies" who didn't want to work but just siphon off tax dollars while the good conservative folks had to work to support them indirectly.

Of course none of that was ever true, but Reagan was ruthless and there was a purpose behind his flag waving: to divide and conquer the growing amount of poor people in order to distract them from the real pitfalls of Reaganomics. And for good measure it helped to turn back civil rights legislation, which angered many minorities. Soon the myth of the Angry White Male emerged and the two groups started pointing fingers at each other, fighting over who should get what resources.

On top of that there was further deceptiveness. A related tactic for Republicans to this day is to simply label ex-Democrats as "bipartisan" or "non-partisan," yet treat dissenters within their own party as pariahs who would be punished severely for the errors of their ways. But as the saying goes, try to paint everything with the same moral brush and you'll have sloppy work.

Many - not all - Conservatives to this very day engage in the type of doublespeak that was first instituted by the Reagan White House. Any kind of civic-minded criticisms of extreme policies or individuals are quickly dashed as being some sort of evil meant to prevent any real progress. This doesn't just apply to liberals or Democrats but even former P.O.W's like John McCain. But this sort of my-way-or-the-highway mentality is actually a road to destruction, evidenced clearly by moderates who are run out of their own party, thus weakening its base as a whole.

Likewise it turns out that there is still a great schism between many people, a lot of wounds that are still slowly healing from the damage caused by Reagan's extreme agenda. But at least there is some healing taking place. Reagan had his own 11th commandment of "Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican," but it turns out that some conservatives are seeing such a so-called commandment for the divisive rhetoric and some are making efforts to turn things around.

It's fairly certain that the legacy of the right-wing lunatic fringe is at this point uncertain. Perhaps we can still be saved with the help of civic-minded citizens who want to see this country recover completely from its sickness and overcome its blight brought on by the Great Deceiver - a man who ultimately fell into the trap of his own lies.

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