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Parry writes: "Possibly never in history has a 'populist' movement been as protective of the interests of the rich as the Tea Party is. But that is because it is really a political cult dedicated to the most extreme rendering of Ronald Reagan’s anti-government philosophy."

President Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he boards Air Force One in Phoenix, 08/21/82. (photo: Jeff Taylor/AP)
President Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he boards Air Force One in Phoenix, 08/21/82. (photo: Jeff Taylor/AP)

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Parry traces the roots of an ideology that convinces many in the Working and Middle Classes to vote against their economic self-interest. -- JPS/RSN your social media marketing partner


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+55 # Capn Canard 2011-08-17 18:43
Reagan is the source of all the magical thinking from the Right Wing. They actually believe that they can reduce the deficit and debt by cutting spending alone. No this is their actual belief
+26 # hms 2011-08-17 23:12
But he was so totally charming with his Grandfather grin and quick wave of the hand--sort of something like out of Hollywood! Too bad it wasn't a movie.
0 # Bill Clements 2011-08-22 10:35
Well some of that benign affability we now know was early onset of Alzheimer's.
+44 # wallawallaslim 2011-08-17 23:55
Unfortunately we have a Black president who promotes the very guy who despised us. The first place that Reagan visited after he won the GOP nomination was Philadelphia Mississipi. That is the place where the civil Rights workers Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner had been butually murdered. Reagan stated " I am for states rights" and the Southerners knew what he meant. He then started talking about "CADILLAC DRIVING WELFARE QUEENS" While the rich started getting richer under his and the people who put him in office.
When his tax cuts failed, he started taxing the tips of waitresses and increased the FICA tax. He waged a war on white union members in the form of breaking the air traffic controllers union and despite that many white men still worship him and vote for the GOP as they ship jobs over to china.
Two excellent books on Racist Ronnie are" Tear down that myth " by Will Bunch and "Sleepwalking through History" by Hanyes Johnson. If you think that Reagans was actually able to think, please read the writing of Dr Helen Caldocott where she discusses the time when his daughter arranged for her to speak with Racist Ronnie and he came to the meeting with cue cards that he mixed up during their conversation
+8 # suzyskier 2011-08-19 13:45
Thanks for the tip on those 2 books I will definetly get them. I really have always despised his presidency as well as that of the W. All we need is another W and we will be finished. I wish I knew why so many people think Reagan was the best president, I just don't get it. Perhaps too many Americans are too lazy to bother to dig deeper that USA Today.
+2 # grannym 2011-08-20 08:20
Agreed. Our (duly elected, at least) President panders to the right-wingers by trotting out images of St. Ronnie, who pretty much single-handedly gave us the kind of fiscal policies that are ruining the country. Instead of this worship, he and his allies should start telling the true story, loudly and consistently.
+49 # X Dane 2011-08-18 00:15
I have always been dumbfounded that so many revere Reagan. I thought he was a terrible governor, and when he became President, i was distressed,
I always thought he was a bad President, I am sad that I was right, for that man did so much to destroy our country.

I know many, many others feel the same way, So I was in total disbelief, when the country was in deep mourning when he died. Americans have such short memories.
They totally forgot what he did to us.

It is happening again, Now people are swooning over a Bush on steroids, A tough guy "who tells it like it is"
A stupid, but politically smart operator.
+22 # Jorge 2011-08-18 00:20
Good article Mr. Parry but give us some viable options to fight back, to turn things around. Blue Dog Democrats, Teapublicans, Repugs, even Obama, they all are deadly for working folks in America. One more paragraph, of ideas/ hope/action items, is needed. We know Reagan accelerated the demise of the good life in the U.S. I think we need to start with a Progressive challenger to Obama for the 2012 Dem nomination and enlist Howard Dean to restructure the Democratic Party (elect Progressives in all 50 states; use on-line methods to overcome the advantages of the Oligarchs' money; expand Truthout and RSN to TV/radio, create Progressive newspapers to counter the RWNJ papers, etc.) and if that fails start a new party (Labor Party, Progressive Party, Majority Party) and unite the middle and lower classes to fight the Oligarchs. Do something.
+4 # Jerri 2011-08-19 10:29
Exactly what I was thinking. Obama was elected in this manner. Why can't he be supported in this manner, or even as you say challenged in this manner.
+4 # grannym 2011-08-20 08:23
Russ Feingold, for whom Obama did NOTHING, was one of the finest Senators and truest American patriots. But he just said he wouldn't run for public office in 2012. Is there ANYONE with te guts to stand against Obama? Or maybe Hillary could stand for VP. She has more guts that Obama and Biden together, and she SHOULD run for Pres, if not in 2012 then in 2016.
0 # Frank Conway 2011-08-21 18:59
It has become a convention of the Left to expect an article pointing out a problem to include the author's proposed solutions, and to avoid this criticism many writers now include the "One more paragraph" suggested here and it often sounds like it's tacked on and not the product of the kind of work that went into the article. The purpose of an article like this one is to make us aware there is a problem. That awareness should inspire many proposed solutions, like Jorge's, and not just one, the author's. The tidy 'problem-soluti on' format just lets us be lazy. We feel like something is being done and we move on to our next tidbit of consumption. As the article points out, when the Left stays home, the Right wins. How to get the Left engaged, how to rev up the potential of millions of bright thinkers, might be a good topic for many articles, ye article writers.
+1 # Jorge 2011-08-21 23:50
Interesting comment Frank. To me there is little point in re-hashing what is fairly well-known if there are no suggestions/pro posals for action. Otherwise we are just complaining/whi ning/lamenting; with a series of "woe-is-me" posts. I was in college when Reagan was elected governor and started on the path of favoring the rich and powerful and hammering the working folks. We already know plenty about Reagan but what we do need are ideas to fight back. I doubt if we will see another article from Mr. Parry with ideas for action (like policy ideas that Robert Reich provides or a plan to replace the Repugs and DINOs with real Progressives). Comments from posts here help us find ways for effective change, at the local, state, and national levels.
+31 # Zack Murrell 2011-08-18 05:49
Concerted efforts of wealthy Republicans over the past six decades have generated an "alternate reality" and they have installed Reagan at the center of their fantasy. As evidence for the scope of this effort, see the development and mainstreaming of right wing think tanks like the Cato Institute and American Enterprise Institute. Changing this dynamic will take an equivalent effort from the left. Sadly, the left, including Parry, fail to acknowledge the depth and breadth of this right wing effort. The Left needs to recognize the fact that this right wing alternate reality cannot be rolled back in a single election, but will take time, money and a concerted effort. It currently does not appear that the left has the "fire in the belly" to accomplish this task.
+30 # PGreen 2011-08-18 05:54
It is hard to tell how much Reagan understood the administrative policies which were enacted in his name. He seemed to like posing in front of the camera, however. Accurate or not, he has become the symbol of the current American oligarchy, and is frequently cast as a benevolent patriotic patriarch loaded with the Christian virtues so beloved of the right-wing. That Obama cites him as hero is quite telling. Those who crafted this image of Reagan may simply want to put a smiling face on their programs which enrich the Few at the cost of the Many. Creating a likable hero demonizes the opposition. But there is nothing moral or happy about policies which promote US imperialism abroad and impoverish our public at home.
+44 # artful 2011-08-18 06:12
Ahh, someone finally said publically what my wife and I have argued for years--that our problems as a nation began with Reagan. After a disastrous term as California's governor, during which he destroyed the California public school system, he came back to Washington and tried to destroy the nation. He made racism popular again, ran up the largest deficits we had ever seen, through stupidity, and tried to destroy the middle class. His view of the US' role in the world was to run away from Lebanon, fire shells at the shore from a battleship, and then invade Grenada. He had the worst cabinet in history (til Shrub) and left the country in a shambles. His success in "ending the cold war" was coincidental and had nothing to do with him. The Soviets were collapsing of their own inept weight already. When he said Government was the problem, he was referring, of course to himself and to his inept political appointees. They are the ones who make government the problem. Government is just us, the American people, acting in our own best interests. Reagan never understood that. But Reagan was a moron, like Shrub.
+6 # suzyskier 2011-08-19 13:52
Thank you for the comment about Reagan and the collapse of the cold war. It astonishes me that he is given credit for it. It's as if the people of Eastern Europe had nothing to do with it at all, so far from the truth! There is no way he should get credit for that! It is a huge lie. Give the people who lived within the Warsaw Compact the CREDIT for freeing themselves!
+12 # Papa Dish 2011-08-18 06:18
Great article!

A few years ago I heard talk about putting Reagan on a bill. I got so mad that I wrote this song.....
+6 # Austin Loomis 2011-08-18 09:00
You don't sound mad in the recording, but I imagine you had to either calm down or sing it in fluent Angrish. It's a good listen.
+4 # Papa Dish 2011-08-18 18:14

This article really nails it the truth.

I was just horrified at the notion of carrying around little portraits of Reagan in my pocket, with all the memories it would conjure up.

So I wrote it like a grown-up children song........... .....Papa Dish
+1 # MidwestTom 2011-08-18 06:20
Blame the FED for our huge and growing gap in incomes. Every time they 'print' more money it goes to the wealthy, and our elected leaders try to sell this money flooding as helping the economy. How does giving money to the baks help the poor? Even though QE 2 is behind us, the Fed is still buying $30 to $40 billion in Treasury bills per month.
+34 # Isar 2011-08-18 06:45
Thanks, Mr. Parry, for reminding us that it all began with President Reagan. Though we believe that George Dubya was the dumbest president in history, it is Ronal Reagan who did the most damage to our way of life. He began the slow attack on the Middle Class, and it continues today.
+44 # fredboy 2011-08-18 07:03
The truest rendering of Ronald Reagan was the Jekyll-Hyde sketch of him on Saturday Night Live. A close friend once spent a day with him on the campaign trail and was amazed. In public, he was caring, friendly, sharing and seemingly warm. Yet as soon as the plane door closed he was vicious, condescending, arrogant and demeaning. Reagan despised the poor, the unfortunate, and those he considered lesser beings. His casting out of the mentally challenged, thus creating the nation's "street people" phenomenon, says it all.
+26 # Glen 2011-08-18 08:11
Reagan was another figurehead that was not running the show. Never forget the folks under and around him are the same as are calling the shots, in their ongoing agenda, today. Their vile policies ran the Reagan administration, along with other parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, setting another course of international policies that pushed the U.S. kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Any democrat can tell you that. They are just as much under that power as republicans.
+16 # now 2011-08-18 09:33
Glen I fully agree. This has become the REAL de facto issue. Obama has no choice but to tow the line of the entrenched political and economic lobbying powers (aka plutocrats) in D.C. {military, agricultural, Rx, financial, and prison industrial corporate complexes). Reagan and Bush II served to exponentially grow these powers (yes, Clinton had a hand in it, too). And now all virtually guaranteed by the 5-to-4 SCOTUS Citizen's United (divided) decision (a misnomer if there ever was one). Until this changes (e.g., real campaign finance reform)- NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
+14 # Glen 2011-08-18 15:43
Reagan birthed the movement. Bush I nurtured the movement. Clinton opened the back door for the adolescent and militant movement. Bush II kicked the front door down and sent the gangs in. Obama paved a smooth path for that agenda and calmed the thugs. But thugs they are, in spite of the new style.
+17 # boudreaux 2011-08-18 08:34
ANd never forget that Bush came outta Tx and was a part of this break down too and now they are presenting Rick Perry, watch out people he too is from TX and has the same values that Bush had...I know that this is off the subject but it just hit me, like man we gotta watch this dude, he could be the end of our country as we know it..
I have heard that he does nothing in the governor's ofc and that his LT. GOv. does all of the work and that he us just for show.....sounds so much like Bush to me.....these repugs scare me to death b/c they just don't care about anything but the rich, but how can then continue to be this rich w/o the american people working too.....we need jobs...I'll keep screaming, we need jobs....
+4 # suzyskier 2011-08-19 14:01
Rick Perry is just as viscious as his predecessor, W. Both don't give a rats behind if someone is innocent or guilty, send them to the chair to fry. Must be guilty if they are in prison. Are these people even human?? I think he (Perry) recently sent someone to be executed that wasn't guilty. Maybe someone else knows the story?
+10 # Activista 2011-08-18 09:40
Reagan started MILITARISTIC deficit economy - and supply side - aka trickle down economy.
As many said above - he was actor on the string of neocons.
Now we have "democratic" Reagan - Obama - jumping as neocons direct.
Stock market and capitalism are sinking - computer traders are making fortune - Obama is speaking of better America ... what a bizarre country we are.
+3 # seeuingoa 2011-08-18 14:33
bizarre is one word
stupid is another
+9 # William Teaford 2011-08-18 09:40
Did anyone else ever wonder why no one ever asked about President Reagan, "What did he know, and when did he know it."
+7 # mike/ 2011-08-18 09:41
def. 'cult' - "The word 'cult' pejoratively refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre" - from wikipedia

yep, works!
+11 # Lisa D. 2011-08-18 10:20
i've always felt that "Reagan Democrat" is an oxymoron (empahsis on MORON) ... kinda like "Jews for Jesus" ...
+8 # boudreaux 2011-08-18 10:32
Quoting MidwestTom:
Blame the FED for our huge and growing gap in incomes. Every time they 'print' more money it goes to the wealthy, and our elected leaders try to sell this money flooding as helping the economy. How does giving money to the baks help the poor? Even though QE 2 is behind us, the Fed is still buying $30 to $40 billion in Treasury bills per month.

And I'll keep on screaming that we need jobs, not more money printed, we need to generate the distrubution of money and not the printing of it...We need jobs...we need jobs...
+23 # Regina 2011-08-18 10:52
The American public has been falling for celebrity idols ever since mass media made mass glamor possible. Show biz far outweighs statesmanship in politics. Reagan was acting in the role of governor, and then president. It's the big bad wolf finding it easier to eat us alive if we can be kept falling for "poisonality" instead of thinking. It takes a population of well-abetted morons to regard Reagan as greater than Lincoln. Journalism died in the mid-20th century.
+27 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-08-18 10:55
I wish more people under 30 knew this history. The new "normal" of U.S.-as-the-wor ld's-wealthiest -3rd-world-coun try has become so entrenched that when I tell my students that before Reagan, one seldom saw homeless people begging on streetcorners in the U.S., I get only blank stares in return.
+14 # Activista 2011-08-18 12:19
" before Reagan, one seldom saw homeless people begging on streetcorners in the U.S"
and now they are putting homeless people in our town in jail (90) days and fine ($1000) for SLEEPING under the bridge.
This is what TOTALITARIAN regimes do.
Problem is that there will be more and more homeless people - and more profit for privatized jails.
+8 # Glen 2011-08-18 15:35
Of course, spending 90 days in jail is better than being on the street, and there are 3 squares a day. You can't get $1000 out of the homeless, either.

Yeah. Privatization. Brutality is common in those jails, so there is the true fine in being homeless and in jail.

There are not enough volunteers to help the homeless, in spite of those who are willing. Those volunteers can tell us just how many homeless there are, and deniers would be shocked. A sad comment on the 21st century in the U.S.A.
+12 # Trystero777 2011-08-18 10:58
All this is too depressingly true. Everyone wonders why-oh-why the Congress won't listen to "the people" about raising revenue. Well, this is the answer. The conservative goal is to "shrink to gov't so it can be flushed down the toilet." That is their ideological mission. I'm sure most Republicans believe they are doing what's right OR they get all their $ from corporate/wealt hy donors and they only care about their re-election. Either way, it leads to a feudal system for the rest of us. (to my way of thinking)

Here's a thought that is percolating just below the surface and no one seems willing to say: separation of the U.S. into one or more new nations. Don't laugh. In our time we saw the Soviet Union dissolve. (granted, not because of political differences) But all the rhetoric, the climate of the times, is frighteningly similar to pre-Civil War. Instead of a fight - How about we divide into a Red US and a Blue US? The borders are roughly drawn already. Give a grace period and assistance for those who need to move in order to live under one system or the other. People would later be free to come and go between the nations and emigrate as well - depending on immigration laws, etc. An amicable divorce.

This nation has been at a great ideological divide for its history. Why not entertain this common sense approach and see where it takes us?
+3 # Mainer 2011-08-18 11:46
Trysteri777: as much as we do already have such a de facto divide as you describe, to codify it into two nations would have Lincoln spinning in his grave! Supposedly we had the Civil War end so the nation was preserved. . . however, he didn't count on the modern dumbing down that has occurred. If you haven't read Joe Bageant "Deer Hunting With Jesus", you really should do so.
+10 # Salus Populi 2011-08-18 11:45
Due to length limitations in place for the comments section, this will be the first of two comments I have on the same subject:

The Reagan "phenomenon" would not have been possible without the wholesale cooperation of both the Democrats and the mainstream media. Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers in 1986 in their book "Right Turn" (South End Press) showed through polls that in reality, at similar points in his and their presidencies, Reagan was among the *least* popular presidents of the postwar period, in 1982, for example, beating only Nixon and Truman. His "Teflon presidency" was a product of the media's refusal to criticize most of his policies as they, too, celebrated the return of far right politics to the center stage, documented by Mark Hertsgaard's "On Bended Knee."

What facilitated this approach was the desire of the Democratic congressional establishment to court the Right as a means of recovering the influence they lost with the McGovern reforms of the nomination process, which for the first time took the power of the kingmakers away from them.
+10 # kyzipster 2011-08-18 11:52
"O'Neill, fired in a shakeup of Bush's economic team in December 2002, raised objections to a new round of tax cuts and said the president balked at his more aggressive plan to combat corporate crime after a string of accounting scandals because of opposition from "the corporate crowd," a key constituency.

O'Neill said he tried to warn Vice President Dick Cheney that growing budget deficits-expect ed to top $500 billion this fiscal year alone-posed a threat to the economy. Cheney cut him off. "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said, according to excerpts. Cheney continued: "We won the midterms (congressional elections). This is our due." A month later, Cheney told the Treasury secretary he was fired."
+5 # Charlie W 2011-08-18 12:00
Still he only receiver 19% of the vote of those polled. With a new crop of voters every election its easy to understand how people might misinterpert the history of a departed President. In this case the Republicans do everything they can to promote Reagan's as America's hero President. Airports, ships, buildings and yes they want his head carved on Mt.Rushmore. That is why good historians are so needed. The facts will one day treat Reagan as the dangerous idoit he was when it came to promoting sound economic policies and promoting our nation as a nation of strength and compassion for the poor.
+8 # Salus Populi 2011-08-18 12:00
(2nd of 2)

Hence, as the late Walter Karp describes in detail in his "Liberty Under Siege," the wily Congressional leadership that had been so effective when Nixon was president was somehow unable to approve the simplest palliatives proposed by Jimmy Carter, a fellow Democrat. This set the stage for Reagan's "triumph, and for the prompt surrender by those same leaders on Reagan's reactionary budget,even before he officially presented it to them. (Speaker Tip O'Neill, legendary for arm twisting, suddenly announced that he had no means of rounding up enough support in the Democratic House to pass the Democratic proposed budget, so he shelved it.)

Thus Reagan's policies were largely rubber-stamped, and he became a potent symbol of consensus, even though, as Noam Chomsky showed, the general population was, if anything, to the left of that of the sixties in its attitudes.

The indispensable role of the media and nominal "opposition" in the construction of the Reagan legend makes it clear that this was part of a united effort by both factions of the ruling stratum to push the country in a desired direction, that of neo-feudalism. In this, they were aided immeasurably by the CIA as well, as the late Steve Kangas described in an on line history. The elites have waged a one-sided class war, and they are winning.
+2 # williamofthetrees 2011-08-18 12:17
To become objective about our lives means to understand that the institutions that govern its experience are critically important. That we are one with the governments (and willing to check their transparency and take decisions that we've abandoned to others), one with the religious activities that mark its pace (and that we are able and willing to check abuse of our emotional innocence and credibility), that the arena’s in which we move our bodies and the laboratories in which we explore our possibilities are ALL part and parcel of our own personal responsibility. That we human beings know ourselves part of each other and are willing and able to act on our behalf for the benefit of each and every individual. That we no longer allow governments, industries, universities or any other institution to run along unchecked by the objective principles of humaneness. That we do not allow gurus to abuse their power or governors to steal the taxes and use them to their personal advantage in detriment of the whole. That we do not allow abuse from anyone anywhere because life is too beautiful to do so and that we are willing to stop the rampant crime with the necessary compassion. That, compassion, for themselves and others, is in fact what characterizes all fascists.
+21 # reiverpacific 2011-08-18 14:04
To sum up, "Duh!"
I remember when Reagan was elected, the crowing of the right-wing people I worked with at the time and my horror that such a mean-spirited (he was a fink for McCarthy in Hollywood) and superficially amiable, but obviously shallow glitter-bug could fluff so many people.
But then consider.
The US has how many shopping channels? How many game shows? how many nerdy and vapid sitcoms and how much over-hyped commercially-sp onsored mega-sports seasons with logos all over their uniforms or whatever they wear.
All this as flavorless stuffing between their sponsor's commercials which even have a following of their own.
Milton Friedman must have been delighted at Reagan's ascent backed by hugely corporate-finan ced commercials, bringing political infotainment to a new height in politics and reducing campaigning to a sitcom lacking in any content (He was never much of an actor).
Trouble is, in spite of all his anti-government rhetoric, he INCREASED government spending and size by 189% whilst in office, so what are his current-day acolytes braying about?
Fortunately, I was working and living overseas for much of his two terms but spent almost two years watching first hand what his appalling political soul-mate Thatcher did to the UK.
One major difference: love her or hate her she was no dummy, unlike her US buddy.
+15 # jon 2011-08-18 22:33
Even as a little boy, and a lover of cowboy movies, I could smell from a distance that Reagan was a phony. As a tiny child I realized this.

When he became a commercial spokesman for GE, I REALLY wrinkled up my nose - still a little boy.

When he announced his candidacy for governor of California I smacked my - by then late tean-aged - brow, and exclaimed to the ceiling, "Oh no, next he will be president of the United States"!

Oh, how I wish I had been WRONG !!

The absolute worst thing that ever happened to the USA.
+11 # foxtrottango 2011-08-18 14:27
The poor dude wasn't running the government. It was others that were running the government for him. He just took a clue sign everything they put in front of him. The poor dude most likely didn't even where he was, what he was doing, what was happening and had problems remembering.

Death was kind to him. He didn't where he was at the time.
+12 # Salus Populi 2011-08-18 17:06
His close friend and mentor, Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher of the UK, which pioneered many of the policies his administration adopted, once said of him, publicly, "Poor dear, he has nothing between his ears."
+10 # williamofthetrees 2011-08-18 15:46
That, lack of compassion, for themselves and others, is in fact what characterizes all fascists.
+14 # bigkahuna671 2011-08-18 17:47
I have always considered Reagan to be the worst President of my lifetime...and I'm 66 years old. I'm from California and I lived through what he did to our state education system and how he drove up property taxes, this resulting in the Prop. 13 campaign. He was ignorant of history but very smart in how to manipulate the media. To call him the Great Communicator is a joke. He couldn't say anything off the cuff, it had to be written for him first by his handlers. We've paid for his poor leadership ever since he took office in 1981 and will probably continue to pay for it for at least another 30 years. God help us all!!!
+3 # jon 2011-08-18 22:34
+8 # Gary E. 2011-08-19 06:00
When Reagan was governor of California I helped circulate petitions to recall him from office. Years later when Reagan was president I was waiting in line to get into Boston's Fenway Park to see a ballgame. A young woman approached me with a petition to recall Reagan. Unfortunately I couldn't sign it because I was not a citizen of Massachusetts.
0 # Tee 2011-08-21 06:27
Even Reagan had sense to raise taxes before the 84 election to be re-elected. Obama and the democrats failed to let the Bush tax expire before the 2010 midtern election. The democrats got wiped out and Obama will be wiped out in 2012.
+3 # Miles Perry 2011-08-21 18:03
Old Ronnie didn't even remember his name at his second inauguration.
His favorite saying was as (he grind and shook) his head, There he or they goes again.
The man was a class B if not a C actor and president....he was a GOP puppet.
This country can not stand anymore trickle down economics. Revenues must be raised by "JOBS" Mr. House speaker.

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