Ronald Reagan was a closer.
And yet, for all the lightness of his bearing, Ronald Reagan could sound as extremist as today’s most irrational gun-toting Tea Partier. In his Goldwater nomination speech, for example, Reagan said that “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people … when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.”
With rhetoric like that, is it any wonder that 44 percent of today’s Republicans believe that “in the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties”? This brand of far-right extremism believes that government itself — democratically elected, fully representative government — is fundamentally unjust unless that government serves the far right, and only the far right.
This ugly remnant of the Reagan legacy constitutes a grave threat to peaceful democratic process.
The avuncular Reagan could also be consummately, shockingly mean-spirited, as when he said in endorsing Goldwater: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”
Mean-spirited, and not very funny. …
The economic data demonstrates the depth of Reagan’s failure. (See the Reagan page at the Campaign for America’s Future for more, including Robert Borosage on Reagan’s Ruins, Dave Johnson’s analysis of Reagan’s impact on America’s infrastructure, and a slideshow presentation on the harmful economic effects of the Reagan Revolution.) …
At his Inauguration 25 years ago, Reagan spoke those famous words, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
“Government is the problem”? Tell that to the millions of senior citizens who are being lifted out of poverty by Medicare and Social Security.
“Government is the problem”? Tell that to the generations of middle-class Americans who prospered because American leaders invested in their nation — including Republicans like Dwight D. Eisenhower, who built the Federal highway system.
“Government is the problem”? Tell that to anyone who learned to read because of a caring teacher.
“Government is the problem”? Tell that to the young American veterans who went to college on the GI Bill after World War II, helping their families — and their nation — enjoy decades of prosperity in the process.
The problem isn’t government. The problem is that too many politicians and media figures refuse to see the Reagan legacy for what it is: a successful sales campaign for yet another lousy corporate product.
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