The real Ronald Reagan

The Bush administration is using Ronald Reagan’s death to boost Bush’s failing campaign. They are eulogizing Reagan because they are hoping to win back support for George W. Bush and the right-wing Republican agenda. The TV is saturated with commentaries about how great a president Reagan was – many are saying he was the greatest president in modern times. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Reagan is presented as if he were the second coming of FDR, when, as a president, he was really like the ghost of Herbert Hoover. He was called the Great Communicator, but the issue is not how good his speeches were, but rather, how bad his policies were. That’s what is being left out by the media, falling right in line with the Bush administration. They want to put a happy face on a very negative presidency.

The real Ronald Reagan was a right-winger most of his life and was one of the most anti-communist, pro-imperialist presidents in U.S. history. He started his career as a conservative by informing on his fellow Hollywood actors during the McCarthy witch-hunts. As governor of California he ordered his state police to attack civil rights and student free speech movement activists. He fired Angela Davis from her teaching position at UCLA for her political views – because she was a member of the Communist Party USA – then he tried to frame her. First he took her job, then he tried to take her life. He also carried out a bloody suppression against the Black Panther Party, which was born in his state. We have to ask, where was the greatness?

He was a master demagogue who knew how to present extremist right-wing policies in a simple, folksy way. He fooled a lot of voters. Many democratic-minded voters became disgusted and gave up on voting. Reagan won each of his two terms as president with a minority of the electorate. Where is the greatness?

He was one of the most anti-labor presidents in history. He started his first term by destroying the air traffic controllers’ union (PATCO) and sought to crush the entire labor movement. He was one of the most active presidents against racial equality in modern history. He was elected using a fictitious “welfare queen” to convince millions of white voters that Black women on welfare were the reason for high taxes. He used racism to promote division and animosity. To send a message, he started his re-election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were killed by the KKK in 1964. Under his watch the Republicans developed their Southern strategy, an alliance with Dixiecrat racists, including the KKK. He staunchly supported the South African racist regime. He consistently opposed affirmative action and all attempts to seriously enforce civil rights laws. He was elected on racism and he ruled with racism.

The crack cocaine epidemic that so ravaged Black and Latino communities emerged and progressed under his watch. The victims of that genocide were probably in the tens of thousands. Where was the greatness?

His “supply-side” economic policies started a 20-year Republican campaign to destroy the social safety net for low-income working-class families. Remember Reaganomics? After leaving office, Reagan’s budget director David Stockton admitted that it was designed to drastically cut social spending, including public education and health care, in order to give huge tax giveaways to the very rich and, in effect, raise taxes on working families. And that is what they did. Again, where was his greatness?

Reagan, they proclaim, “won” the Cold War. But when the USSR and other socialist countries collapsed, millions were driven into poverty. These countries are now suffering unemployment, homelessness, hunger, crime, and bloody ethnic strife. This is what Reagan and Bush call freedom. Where was the victory?

Today the average life span in the former USSR has plunged to the level of a developing country. Public schools have been trashed and pricey private schools have sprung up for the new rich capitalists. Free health care is being eliminated and replaced by expensive private hospitals and clinics. The children who used to be a privileged class, the women who broke world records in many fields, are being victimized, exploited, and enslaved through the international sex trade. This is a victory?

Who benefited from the collapse of socialism? Not the people. Imperialism! Global capitalism, particularly U.S. capitalism.

Thanks to Reagan’s policies the world is a far more dangerous place today. George W. Bush’s militarist, sole-superpower imperial policies – including the invasion and occupation of Iraq – are a continuation of Reagan’s agenda.

The American people have suffered through a quarter century of intensified right-wing attack. It’s time for change. Let’s step up the struggle to defeat Bush and the Republican majority in Congress this November so that we can begin to move our country in a better direction. That will be a real victory.



Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at jtyner@cpusa.org.