Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Thoughts on the Gipper

I come to bury Ronald Reagan, not to praise him.

Even the most liberal democrat cannot deny Ronald Reagan's skill as a politician. He had a vision and a strong set of principles from which he would not deviate. Unfortunately, his vision and principles left many in our nation behind.

If you watched the funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capital Building, did you notice a rather pale complexion to most of the mourners? Did you see many people of color claim that Reagan was their "hero"? Didn't think so. Eight years of massive tax cuts for the wealthy white folks and massive cuts to social programs didn't endear him to many minorities.

Listening to the praise heaped upon Reagan tries many people's patience. He was lauded as a brilliant communicator and a visionary who made the country feel good about itself again. Unfortunately, he only made maybe one quarter of our country feel good about itself. As for the others, they're still waiting for the "trickle down" to reach them.

Conservatives argue that he brought an end to the Cold War, but Mikhail Gorbachev had much more to do with that.

Conservatives argue that he brought us out of a recession. Ask George the Elder what it was like trying to pay the bill for Reagan's tax cuts and defense build up. Poppy never knew how right he was when he characterized Reagan's economic policy as "voodoo economics" during the 1980 Republican primary campaign.

Conservatives argue that he saw American as a "shining city on a hill". Unfortunately, it was more like the "gated community on a hill". Most couldn't get past the security booth. His policies and beliefs worked well for big business (especially defense contractors -- Halliburtan anyone?), but left the rest (a majority) of the nation with catsup as a vegetable and a drug policy of "Just Say No".

The seeds of Enron and Halliburton were sown during the Eighties with the Savings and Loan scandal. The conditions that fostered the Rodney King riots developed in the Eighties with the cuts in social programs for the inner cities. Some would argue that he saw the best in us as a nation, but really he brought out the worst. Greed. Bigotry. Intolerance.

Conservatives argue that he had the ability to rise above the every day issues to see the big picture. Unfortunately, on his way to immortality, he tended to overlook things like the Constitution, Civil Rights and compassion. In speaking of former President Reagan, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that Reagan gave "hope to the oppressed." What hope did he give to the people of Flint, Michigan, which became a ghost town as a result of Reagan's deficit spending?

Now that the pomp and overkill of the State/Hollywood funeral has faded, it's time to recognize Ronald Wilson Reagan for what he was: a man who saw the city on the hill, not the millions who were denied entry to that city. A man who made the country feel good about itself rather than facing harsher truths. A man who brought the country out of a recession only to create a larger one.

A man of style, not substance.

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