Note To The Right Wing: The Party's Over
Back in the late winter of 1980, I was taking a sociology course at Orange County Community College in Middletown, NY - OCCC, as we used to call it. My professor was a learned gentleman named Doctor William Byrne. One day during class, he made a statement that at the time I thought verged on the ridiculous:
"In the next quarter of a century, this country is going to move so far to the right, you won't even recognize it"
The last time I ever saw Doctor Byrne was on election night 1980. I was working as a reporter for W-ALL Radio, covering the election results at the Orange Inn in Goshen which was where the Orange County Democrats were staked out. The Dems got badly stomped that year and it was almost like an Irish wake from what I can remember (we were all pretty loaded). When CBS News' Walter Cronkite made the official announcement, that Ronald Reagan was the next president of the United States, the good Doctor sadly shook his head and gravely walked out into the cold November night. Oh please! I thought to myself, It's not the end of the world! I wasn't crazy about the prospect of a Reagan Presidency either but how bad could he be? Really bad, it turned out. If you're still alive, William Byrne, and even if you're not, I tip my hat to you. You obviously could see something that I was blind to. In many deep and symbolic ways, that night really was the end of the world - the world as we knew it.
The Reagan Revolution and the subsequent right-wing lock on our national political dialogue - which has gone on for almost twenty-six years now - has nearly destroyed what was once a nice country to live in. Think about what it was like to be an American in 1980! Sure it was a "bitch of a year" as Thomas Merton once referred to another calamitous year: We were in the midst of a crisis with Iran that threatened the lives of fifty-plus American diplomats being held hostage by that nation's leaders; there were severe fuel shortages that occasionally led to long lines at the pump; Jimmy Carter could be a fairly lackluster, uninspiring leader and his famous "Malaise" speech that summer didn't endear him to anyone.
On a personal note, I didn't fare too well in 1980 either. On the morning of December 8th, I lost my coveted radio job. Could 1980 get any worse, I thought? It could and it did. That night, at 10:30 PM, some homicidal little geek shot and killed John Lennon outside of his apartment building in New York City. No ifs, ands or buts about it: 1980 sucked.
Yet aside from all of these nasty distractions, it was fun being an American in 1980. You didn't have to be rich to lead a comfortable life and home ownership wasn't the impossible dream that it has become for so many of us (Full disclosure: I rent). Where I live, a house that went for fifty-thousand in 1980 now goes for nearly half a million. Twenty-six years ago, racial tensions - although undeniably real - were barely palpable in most places. There was actually hope -real, tangible hope - that we were well on the way to being a color blind society....
...."Color blind society". It just hit me that I haven't even heard that term in years....
Although the America of 1980 was beset with some very real societal problems, our humor wasn't so vile, our politics weren't so mean and we the people weren't so angry. What happened to us?
Ronald Reagan happened to us.
Is it a stretch to blame most of our problems on dear old Ronnie? You be the judge: For twenty-six long years, the Republican Party waged a virtual war on a middle class that in 1980 was thriving. This economic assault on America's working men and women would not have been successful but for Ronald Wilson Reagan. Two and a half decades after he took the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol Building on January 20, 1981, the middle class is on the road to extinction. This dreadful situation would never have occurred had the American people not foolishly turned their backs on the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Well, be of good cheer, kiddies! The Reagan Revolution is over. Two and a half years after the Gipper finally bought the farm, his political philosophy and the tsunami of mindless extremism that came with it is finally coming face to face with the grim reaper of national discontent. As I always said they would, the people are awakening from the right-wing coma they've been snoozing under since that day, so long ago, they naively sent a feeble-minded, failed, "B" movie actor to the oval office - to the White House. The very first action of the current president, within minutes of being sworn in, was signing an executive order sealing the papers of the Reagan administration indefinitely! They don't want us to know the truth about Ronald Reagan. Fear not. Eventually we'll know everything. One cannot hide from history.
It must never be forgotten that Ronald Reagan was merely a friendly, amiable mask with a twinkle in its eye and a fine Irish smile. Remove that mask and you have the hideous, disgusting smirk of George W. Bush - that's the real face of the so-called "Reagan Revolution". Most of the things that Bush has done to you, Reagan tried to do to you and would have done to you had he had control of both houses of Congress. We had to wait till January of 2001 for that to happen.
Some say that the GOP is merely in a slump and that they'll have their mojo back by time the next election cycle comes along. Don't be too sure of that. The Democrats now have the power of the subpoena and much will be revealed in the next two years with regard to the machinations of the Bush White House and their corrupt lap dogs in the House and Senate. Unless the Republican Party reforms itself, George W. Bush might very well be remembered as the last republican president.
Think about that for a minute: from Lincoln to Bush. You just can't fall any further than that!
Pray for peace.
This is off-topic but I just had to share it with you: it was announced on MSNBC minutes ago that the top three stories to capture the attention of the American public in 2006 were (in order of importance, mark you):
1. The death of Steve Erwin
2. The death of Anna Nicole Smith's son
3. The war in Iraq.
Britany Spears' love life was a close fourth.
And guess what? Many of these people are registered to vote. Be afraid be very afraid.