Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Even President Obama has often referred to Reagan as inspirational.
For the life of me... I'm trying to figure out why!
To begin, why is it that every African American I know remembers Reagan differently? Are there two Ronald Reagans (well... actually there is - his son - Ronnie Reagan - but you know what I mean).
The Reagan that I remember hearing about was the one that gave his first public address, after accepting the Republican nomination for president, in Philadelphia, MS. For those who remember, Philadelphia, MS is the same place where three civil rights workers were lynched. They made a movie about it - Mississippi Burning. To add insult to injury, Reagan made sure to include standard separatist language and phrases including "states' rights." He even promised to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them." In attempt to further unify himself with the white animosity crowd, Reagan professed that Jefferson Davis, President and Leader of the Confederacy, was his hero.
Not known to be very empathetic to minority groups, Reagan literally opposed every major civil rights legislation including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 even opposing the extension of the Voting Rights Act. How much of a hard on for "States Rights" do you have to have to feel it is okay for Jim Crow laws to exist? He said the Voting Rights Act was "humiliating to the South." REALLY?? "Humiliating to the SOUTH"? How about the Jim Crow laws were humiliating to American Citizens? Or was that okay? Reagan was also opposed to MLK Day, eventually the overwhelming veto-proof majority in both House and Senate convinced him to sign it into law.
Reagan supported apartheid and vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act - that was eventually overridden by Congress- that was legislation imposing sanctions against South Africa government and stood against the international community and the UN on passing sanctions against the racist government. The Reagan administration even labeled Nelson Mandela a terrorist! Can you even imagine viewing Nelson Mandela the same way we view Osama bin Laden?
As for his other domestic projects, Reaganomics TRIPLED the national debt from just under $1 trillion to almost $3 trillion. He raised taxes in six of his eight years in office. In an attempt to "slash federal spending" - sound familiar - Reagan cut funding for many domestic programs that assisted working class Americans, particularly the poor. Wages declined under Reagan's Presidency and the gap between the rich and the poor widened. While the rich got richer, the poverty rate in cities grew. Is this the American Dream the Tea Party is chasing after? (Maybe Thomas Frank was on to something). Reagan's economic legacy is one that should be remembered as the beginning of the end for the middle class. This isn't a legacy that should be celebrated, it should be condemned! In the upcoming HBO documentary "Reagan," Reagan's son, Ron, says that his father was "vulnerable to the idea that poor people were somehow poor because it was their fault." President Reagan then says "The homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice." If this doesn't paint the picture of a man disconnected from the working people and the poor, I don't know who is. This wasn't a champion of the people, he was a champion of rich.
This doesn't mean that Reagan didn't have success and wasn't a gifted politician. Reagan was key in bringing down the Berlin Wall and navigating our country through the Cold War. That's the positive side of Reagan. The Right-wing loves to promote that side. But what about the side of Reagan that was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal? Or that he sold weapons to our eventual "enemies," and the Contras' ties to trafficking of drugs from Latin America into the United States. Does it bother anyone that airplanes from the U.S. used to supply arms to the Contras were being flown back with Contras personnel aboard carrying cocaine into the United States. We all know the devastating impact drugs had on the poorer communities in the 80s and well into the 90s.
So why does he get a pass? I don't get it? Today, we get pissed about TARP, wiretapping, health care, ARRA, taxes, tax-cuts, spending, not spending, blah, blah, blah....
But Reagan, who raised taxes, devastated the middle class, was against most programs that assisted minorities and women, sold weapons to enemies and played (some) role in bringing drugs into the country gets celebrated?
I guess Sen. Lindsey Graham said it best when he said, "Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today."
Hell, as long as we can reshape history to fit our own personal agenda... I guess it doesn't really matter.
With all the negative, why is Ronald Reagan put on a pedestal by the Right-wing AND President Obama?