Bill Maher not only exposed the the legacy of Ronald Reagan for what it really is, he also slaughtered the Republican Party’s most sacred cow.
Bill used Bob Dole’s comments about the Republican Party as a springboard to go off on the mythology surrounding Ronald Reagan.
This has become a kind of conventional wisdom that the Republican Party has gone so far right Reagan himself wouldn’t fit in, but I’m here tonight to call bulls**t on that. Ronald Reagan was an anti-government, union busting, race baiting, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, who cut rich people’s taxes in half, had an incurable case of the military industrial complex, and said that Medicare was socialism that would destroy our freedom. Sounds to me like he would fit in just fine.
What they can not contest is that even though Reagan did a few things that today’s GOP would not like, he wrote the playbook for them on every issue of consequence. Sure he raised taxes a few times, but when you look at where he started with taxes and where he ended, this is where our income inequality problem began. He invented voodoo economics. On race, his ideas couldn’t have been more tea party if he shouted them from a Rascal Scooter. He ran on states’ rights. He invented the notion that black people get all the breaks. Constantly telling the story of the Chicago woman (wink-wink) who has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and her tax free cash income is over $150,000. And that woman today is RuPaul. Actually, that woman never existed. Reagan just made s**t up. Something else he pioneered for his party today.
He described the New Deal as fascism. Medicaid recipients as waiting for handouts, unemployment insurance as prepaid vacation for freeloaders, and once said, “A tree’s a tree. How many do you need to look at?” He was the original official pitchman for batsh*t. When they hold up signs that say no socialized medicine, where do think they got it from? We got it from you dad. We got it from you.
Worst of all, Reagan inspired a whole generation of people who hate government to get into government. Both sides really should stop pretending that he is anything other than the man most responsible for our decline, and I do mean both sides. I get why Republican worship Reagan. They’re the religious party. Worship is in their DNA. They can’t help it. They love him beyond logic. Last year, they tried to elect his haircut. They want him on a stamp, so they can lick his backside. But why are Democrats conceding the argument on Reagan? Obama talks about him like a brother from another mother. He changed the trajectory of America. Yes, but not for the better.
When you mainstream Reagan, the far right becomes the new middle. He wasn’t a friend to all Americans. He was patient zero for everything you are fighting against now. He was the original teabagger. Stop agreeing that he was a saint. Especially when his two miracles were turning water into polluted water,and walking on the poor.
The mythology surrounding Reagan has seeped into the mainstream political aquifer. It is a great deal of fun for Democrats to use Reagan’s own words against Republicans, but let’s not forget who Ronald Reagan really was. He is a president whose policies were so disastrous for the poor that they spawned the Comic Relief charity.
Inequality wasn’t just celebrated under Reagan, it was glorified. Greed was a virtue, and stepping on others to get ahead was seen as heroic behavior. Under Reagan our manufacturing base vanished, and good blue collar jobs went away. Reagan cut the rungs on the economic ladder. He wrapped himself in the flag, and disguised his destruction with an overdose of patriotism and symbolism.
Today’s Republican Party has never been able to master Reagan’s greatest trick of making Americans feel good about their own destruction. Ronald Reagan may not have been able to make it in today’s politics because his handlers would not have been able to so closely manage his image. The 24 hour cable news cycle and the Internet would not have let the real Ronald Reagan hide. In today’s political/media environment, Ronald Reagan might have been Rick Perry. To suggest that he would be anything other than a far right icon is not only misleading; it’s rewriting the history of who, and what, Ronald Reagan really was.