June 06, 2004

Ronald Reagan: A crankier view.

While this magpie sympathizes with the Reagan family's loss, we can't say that we're experiencing any sense of loss ourselves. As a friend pointed out in a conversation yesterday, Ronald Reagan was just the prototype Republican figurehead president -- a front man for the people who really held the levers of power.

As governor of California, Reagan devastated both the state's system of higher educations (as a way to punish student 'radicals') and eliminated a community-based mental health system. (This magpie remembers when the mentally ill weren't a major feature of the California street scene.)

Under Reagan's presidency, deficit spending increased and the US national debt almost tripled, with a large part of the spending increases going to the military in order to counter the 'Soviet threat.' (After the fall of the Soviet Union, we found out how hollow that threat was.) His administration cut social programs, undermined organized labor (remember PATCO?), hugely escalated the war on drugs, and sponsored the deadly 'contra war' in Nicaragua.

We could go on.

Now that Reagan has died, we're going to be subjected to interminable rosy assessments of his presidency and political contributions to the nation, and testimonials as to what a nice guy he was. While we're sure we'd probably have enjoyed Reagan as an eccentric neighbor, he never should have become governor of California, let alone president of the United States. His rise to political power is an example the dangers of a political system that values style and appearance over content, and political sloganeering over policy. Rather than remembering him fondly, we should recall the damage he did in the process of bringing 'morning to America.'

This magpie doesn't miss him at all.

Posted by Magpie at June 6, 2004 08:18 AM | US Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

While I agree with you and I am glad you posted here Democrats and progressives must be careful not to bash Reagan overtly at this time. The importance of the November election to purge the country of the moronic Reagan clone is too important to alienate a large chunk of the population.

Posted by: Ron In Portland at June 6, 2004 02:35 PM

I agree with Ron in Portland and some of the sentiments in Natasha's post from the Washington convention. A lot can be said about Reagan the political figure, but now is not the time. Now is the time for respectful silence or thoughts for the family. Whether that is appropriate with an eye toward November or just from the point of view of humanity, it is still not time to political discuss the man in a negative light.

Posted by: Scott at June 6, 2004 03:24 PM

Bilmon has a good rundown on the fictions, untruths and half truths of the Reagan legacy this morning.

Posted by: Ron In Portland at June 6, 2004 04:53 PM

a list of reagan's 'accomplishments' is 'bashing'? sorry, but i just don't agree ... someone needs to speak out before the republicans can finish deifying reagan. If you're worried about alienating people in the interests of winning in november, just think about kerry's chances if dubya can wrap himself in the mantle of the sainted ronald reagan (as well as in the US flag) ... speaking out to tarnish reagan's halo now will save us tons of problems later.

more generally, i really hate how people in the US often want to treat recently died leaders like they were faultless and wonderful, no matter what scumbags they were in actual life. reagan's administration set the parameters and examples for a whole lot of what's wrong with the country now. ignoring that is wrongheaded and, i'd suggest, very counterproductive.

Posted by: Magpie at June 6, 2004 06:33 PM

I usually don't, but this time I do disagree with you. We don't have time to sell a majority of US citizens that Reagan was a scumbag, although it should be an easy sell. Trying to do so will alienate them. Bush will try to wrap himself in the glories of Reagan but I really don't think he will be successful, he has to run on his own record which is fresh in peoples minds as a failure.

Posted by: Ron In Portland at June 6, 2004 06:43 PM

i hardly see how my words about reagan here on pacific views affects the november election. if kerry said the same things i'm saying, yeah, it would make a difference. but he's not. and i haven't suggested that the democrats start criticizing reagan as a campaign strategy. but just because it would be bad tactics for the official democratic campaign to run against the beloved gipper, that shouldn't mean that we give the man a pass on his record just because he died or because he suffered with alzheimer's.

to be blunt, i have trouble seeing how saying that criticism of reagan should be off-limits because of his death and because it will antagonize republicans differs in any important respect from suggesting that criticism of dubya's iraq policies will endanger US troops and antagonize people who support the war. if we don't buy the argument about criticizing dubya, why should we buy a similar argument about criticizing reagan?

Posted by: Magpie at June 6, 2004 07:51 PM

I say criticize at will as I could not stand him. Just be respectful enough for someone who has died to wait a week or so. There is much to be critical of, but there is a time and a place.

Posted by: Scott at June 7, 2004 12:58 AM

Let's split the difference. Give his memory a week (sorry for the unintended pun), then speak the truth about his record. I have to say Magpie is dead on in her analogy about the troops. Let's all speak out, after this moment of silence.

Posted by: Norman at June 7, 2004 06:02 PM

Good one, Norman. (First thing Saturday...)

I couldn't stand the man either. We were cautioned this morning about 'being disrespectful' on our local Democrat e-list from someone. No one had been although someone had posted Pacific View's cranky comment.

As far as the election goes in November, what does Reagan's death have to do with that? I would think Johy Kerry isn't going to worry over Reagan's record but the bullsh*t from Bush administration - which should be plenty of ammunition. John Kerry has already released a statement; he won't be campaigning this week.....there's where the concern/focus should be, not with someone from Boise or Portland or Redding who didn't agree with Reagan's politics. I will say this about Reagan. I remember being angry but never this fearful of his administration and the consequences of their actions. I can honestly say I dislike Bush and I am not a disliker of people. That entire slimy bunch....

Posted by: Kitt at June 8, 2004 12:41 AM

Look at it this way, folks. Reagan holds, for whatever reason, a place in public mythology. And if you got a chance to listen to the speeches they were re-playing on C-SPAN over the weekend it was clear why people warmed to him.

Bush will not gain from drawing comparisons to Reagan, that is, unless the story of the day becomes "Democrats hate Reagan." The man is dead, for love of God. Decorum becomes us.

Posted by: natasha at June 9, 2004 08:38 AM

As a nurse in psychiatric nursing in the 80s, as the single mother of three daughters who got screwed by educational cuts, as a daughter of a similar misguided charming patriarch, I say 'God help us,' for now we have worse. Another but fouler pawn.How poignant that he died in mental confusion. But he had money and Nancy and lots of nurses. And a home.

Posted by: Audrey George at June 11, 2004 07:36 AM

Your all a bunch of communists. Your distortion of facts is just atounding. Your Kerry backstabber will never be president.

Posted by: RONALD ELLARS at June 12, 2004 07:45 AM