Conservatives have begun idolizing Ronald Reagan. Apparently, they now view this controversial President as being one of the great men in history. This perception is unwarranted. Liberals tend to deify John F. Kennedy, who, in fact, was as flawed as he was brilliant. Conservatives seem to have the same problem with Ronald Reagan. Like Kennedy, Reagan was a flawed man who made mistakes, and the Reagan Era was not the blissful Utopia that his hordes of supporters claim that it was.
Today, supporters view Reagan as being the quintessential conservative. However, if one examines his record closely, one might become convinced that he was a Republican In Name Only. He actually had strong roots in the Democratic Party. As PolitiFact noted on March 30, 2010, Reagan, as a young man, was a big believer in the New Deal programs, and voted for FDR four times. He also voted for Harry S. Truman. He only became a Republican in 1962. Today's conservatives loathe supposedly left-wing Hollywood, but Reagan started out as a Hollywood actor. Today's conservatives also detest unions, but, while in Hollywood, he became a union leader. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, he led a long strike against the motion picture studios, and he pushed for higher wages for his fellow actors. As governor of California, he sponsored three tax increases, one of which was the largest in the state's history at that time. As President, he helped to suppress both inflation and unemployment. However, his administrations were famously marked by record-high deficits.
He made serious errors. His massive tax cuts--which unfairly benefited upper-income Americans--led to these record-high deficits. His Strategic Defense Initiative proved to be a costly dud. He enacted painful reductions in social programs, which devastated many black and Hispanic households. Throughout his tenure as President, he worked to dilute many regulations that had been designed to protect endangered species, wildlife refuges, and air and water quality. Even worse, as Rational Wiki notes, he supported dictators like Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein. He supplied money and weapons to Afghanistan, much of which wound up in the hands of the Taliban. He ignored the emerging AIDS crisis.
It is an outrageous myth that Reagan single-handedly defeated Communism in Eastern Europe. Yes, he was always an outspoken critic of this failed political system, and, relentlessly, he pressured Eastern European leaders to abandon it. Of course, he played a role in its defeat. Ultimately, however, most of the credit for this defeat should go to the Eastern Europeans themselves. By the mid-1980's, most of them realized that the Communist system in Europe was rotten, and needed to be dismantled. Most likely, this historic change would have occurred with or without Reagan on the scene. To insist that one politician could have had this much influence is absurd. It is an erroneous view that insults the memories of those many Eastern European citizens who fought tooth-and-nail to help destroy totalitarianism in Europe. Reagan expedited this historic change; he himself did not cause it.
Some Republicans even state that Reagan destroyed Communism as a whole. This statement is even worse. Communism is still a major force in the world. Despite some feeble attempts at reform, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba remain Communist regimes. Thus, well over a billion people still reside in radical, totalitarian dictatorships.
many conservatives claim that the Reagan Years comprised a right-wing version
of Camelot. Interestingly, many people
who make this claim are young persons, College Republican types who don't
personally remember this era because they weren't around then. Those who were around then usually remember
things differently. They recall a long
series of trials and crises, including:
The Iran-Contra Affair
The government rigging of HUD loans
The funneling of EPA money into Republican campaigns
The implication of 138 government officials, which makes the Reagan regime one of the most corrupt Presidential administrations in American history
Deregulation of the savings and loan industry, which produced a mini-housing bubble
The Stock Market Crash of 1987
Ongoing terrorism (including a bombing in
Beirut which left 299 American and French service people dead)
Was Ronald Reagan the demonic villain that many left-wingers consider him to be? No, he was a gifted speaker and tireless politician who stressed hard work, the importance of family, and independence. Above all, he was a patriot. However, no American should be elevated to sainthood. That's not part of the American Way; this is an egalitarian nation, after all. Besides, few (if any) American politicians deserve sainthood, and that would include the influential but imperfect 40th President of the United States.