I did not like Ronal Reagan’s politics. His candidacy drove me from the Republican party in 1980, something Richard Nixon hadn’t managed to do. His death, particularly the illness he suffered with dignity and courage, is tragic.
For many people, the man was the embodiment of “American,” which is unfortunate, because his roles never varied much from one white bread view of life.
The lionization of Reagan has grown in volume and fury since his death was announced on Saturday. He was, nevertheless, responsible for the greatest expansion of income disparity in U.S. history and the original chickenhawk, an actor who glorified feats of military power without ever having known the horror endured by men at war.
He spent the country into a hole to “fight” a dying communism, a deficit from which the United States only began to make progress a decade later when his political heir has plunged us back in with crazed gusto, slashing taxes for the wealthy while asking ordinary Americans for ever greater sacrifices.
He gutted education and social services, stripping most Americans of opportunities that he enjoyed having come of age in the Era of Roosevelt.
Reagan oversaw the use of vicious tactics in Central America and the beginning of the “War on Drugs” that puts people with no criminal record into prison longer than a convicted corporate thief for carrying drugs for their personal use. He discarded faith in individual Americans’ ability to pull themselves out of dark places, insisting that only those bathed in holy light and the brightest Americans need succeed in order to have prosperity trickle down to the rest.
He gave us a “them within” to distrust and despise, turning Americans against one another based on class and political ideology.
“In many ways, George W. Bush and the policies that he put forward stand on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan,” Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush’s campaign manager is quoted as saying by the New York Times. Indeed, this is very true and why I hope we can bury Ronald Reagan’s political legacy, at last, with the 2004 presidential election.
I also hope that his legacy as a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease will revivify the debate over stem cell therapies, which have been hindered by President Bush’s narrow-minded fundamentalism. Nancy Reagan should speak at the Republican convention, telling them that her calls for lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell therapy need to be heeded.
Rest in peace, Mr. Reagan.