January 20, 1981
This just in: Ronald Reagan has died.
Yes, I know what you're saying. You're probably asking yourself, "Does Degan even read the papers?" I realize that the feeble-minded old freak shuffled off this mortal coil nearly four years ago. What I'm trying to say is that with President Obama's address to the Congress and the nation last week, the co-called "Reagan Revolution" which (let's face some serious fact here) has been in its death knell for two years now, was declared deader than the Gipper himself. Goodbye and good riddance.
I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
This is not to imply that twenty-nine years ago (Eek Gads! Where has the time gone!) I was ideologically in tune with Reagan and that in subsequent years I have seen the light. The sad, pathetic truth of the matter is that on the evening of Tuesday, November 4, 1980 I got so falling-down intoxicated, I voted for the man just as a joke. A failed, "B" movie actor in the White House? That'll be good for a chuckle , I thought. Nearly three decades later, I'm not laughing. On that ominous night, I was a reporter for a community radio station that has since been Clear Channeled out of existence, W-ALL of Middletown, NY. I had been assigned the task of covering the Republicans. But since they had all skipped out of town to celebrate "this great victory for the American people" at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, I had no other choice but to walk across the street with my recording gear in hand to the restaurant where the Democrats were holding what I can only describe as the political equivalent of an Irish wake. I was more than happy to participate in the joyful, drunken mourning. At exactly 8:45 PM, with fifteen minutes left before the polls closed, I staggered one/tenth of a mile to the Town Hall and voted. It was in that condition that I cast my precious ballot for the likes of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
If the era deregulated, "government is the problem" madness was delivered a knockout punch last Election Day, President Obama's speech to the nation on Tuesday night will prove to be the death blow. As they did seventy-six years ago this Wednesday when they elevated Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the presidency, the American people, whether they fully understand it or not, have taken a decided turn to the left. The pendulum has swung, baby!
As I never tire of telling people, I never succumbed to Ronniemania. My inebriated vote of 1980 notwithstanding, I never got Ronald Reagan. Nearly thirty years later and I still don't get it. The "sunny optimism" that so many of my clueless, fellow countrymen and women found so irresistible, I always saw for what it obviously was: pure stagecraft. Remember, the man was a professional actor. As I wrote on this site on November 30, 2007:
"No administration had ever used television so effectively to distort reality that this one had. No administration would surpass it in its ability to "catapult the propaganda" until the second Bush administration a generation later. Reagan's career as a screen actor was pretty much kaput by the mid nineteen-sixties. His very last film, made in 1964 and called, "The Killers" (which contained an interesting scene of him beating the heck out of poor little Angie Dickinson) barely registered with the public. He had come to the point in his life where he needed to make a major career change. Within two years he would be governor of California. Fourteen years after that he was living in the Executive Mansion. From being a perfectly mediocre actor to being the president of the United States of America....I'm not making this stuff up!"
Reagan's historical reputation has been that of the "Great Communicator". And why not? he was able to communicate the idea that the programs and regulations that Franklin D. Roosevelt put into place in the nineteen-thirties - a system which, by the way, worked beautifully for over half a century - were, in fact, a bad things for the American economy. Forget the fact that the period between 1940 and 1980 saw the largest economic expansion in the history of the world; forget the fact that the middle class (which until very recently, was taken for granted) didn't even exist prior to the New Deal; forget the fact that the stock market did not crash once between the day Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933 until nearly seven years into the Reagan presidency - forget all that. As Reagan himself once memorably said, "Facts are stubborn things". Just place your economic future into the hands of the plutocracy, my fellow Americans. The wealth will "trickle down" to the rest of you. The events that have transpired since the late summer of 2008 have forever proven the utter fallacy of that philosophy.
The fact is this: In the years between January 20, 1981 and September 15, 2008, the American people were blissfully slumbering under a self-induced, right wing coma. They awoke from that decades-long snooze to confront a bitter, economic reality. The economy has been destroyed by these hideous people. If the American Dream was moribund on the eve of the November election, it has at least been revived to the point where it has been put back on life support. It is my hope that President Obama is successful. But that success will come - not because of the Republicans - but in spite of them. It is now time for the Democrats and Progressives to start focusing on the 2010, mid-term election. The behavior of our Republican representatives during the past month is all the proof we need that they must be swept into history garbage heap. The only hope for them on Election Day 2010 is the utter failure of the president of the United States - and the American people.
While the Right Wing tries to terrify the populace with shrill cries of "SOCIALAISM", it would do us good to recall that their ideological forebears used the same tactic three-quarters-of-a-century ago. That terror is now being broadcast by people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Weiner and Sean Hannity - running around the political barnyard like headless Chicken Littles - "THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!" We would all be wise not to fall prey to their propaganda.
These may be the worst of times (no doubt about it) but in a very real way, they are the best of times as well. I don't know how you feel about things, but these are exciting times to be alive. The American people are waking up and revolution is in the air. It doesn't get any better than that. It really doesn't
The Acting President
by Bob Schiefer