Illustration by Alex Kostiw
In 2008 I had a history teacher who had two children. He named them Ronald and Reagan. At the time, I found it a little odd that a man who was in his late forties, who looked a lot like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, would name his children after a president. It was my first introduction to the fanaticism that surrounds Reagan’s presidency by disillusioned members of the Republican Party. It’s probably safe to say that a majority of Republican candidates running in the presidential primaries this year compare themselves to Reagan on anything they can — union busting, welfare cutting, education deprivation, or creating loopholes for big business to slide right through.
However, in a 2013 interview, former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) was explaining that the current Republican Party was so extreme that “Reagan couldn’t have made it.” But who says he would have wanted to? Sure, Reagan shares some of the same values as today’s republican party like slashing welfare, tax breaks for the wealthy, and brazen racism — but how could the poster boy for the most extreme republicans not “make it” in today’s Republican Party?
DID REAGAN EVEN LIKE REAGAN ENOUGH?
Reagan’s biggest fan, Scott Walker mentions him every time he gets the chance. It’s kind of like a 5 year old who won’t take off that damn Batman cape. In 2011, when Walker was giving a speech to his staff about stripping public unions of bargaining powers, he inspired them with a fiery speech about Reagan’s utter indifference to firing 11,345 air traffic controllers when they refused to end a walkout. Walker, in his book titled Unintimidated, said this speech was his Braveheart moment. That’s right, a Scottish Mel Gibson clad in face paint and fur leading his army of union-hating troops against the leftist, fair-wage advocates of America. Reagan definitely hated unions, but to say that he called himself the Mel Gibson of union-busting might have gone a little far.
In fact, just to bring Walker’s strange fascination with his fantasy of becoming one with Reagan closer, Walker and his wife got married on Reagan’s birthday. On their anniversary every year, they share some of his favorite foods, like macaroni and cheese casserole and red, white, and blue Jelly Belly brand jelly beans.
If Reagan weren’t dead, it sounds like he might have to take out a restraining order on Walker.
WAS REAGAN A COLLECTOR OF FINE WEAPONRY OR IMAGINARY FRIENDS?
When Former Governor Jeb Bush named Marco Rubio as the Florida House speaker in 2007, he told the crowd of legislators about a dear friend of his named Chang. He said some things like “Chang is a mystical warrior,” and “I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life.” Of course, Chang (who is really supposedly Chiang Kai-shek) is not actually a friend of Jeb Bush, because you can’t actually be friends with a dead former president of the Republic of China. After this maybe offensive Eastern-laden rhetoric, Bush presented Marco Rubio with a sword and said, “I’m going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,” according to the Gainesville Sun. That was the sword of Ch(i)ang.
Jeb Bush’s paranoid delusions and deep wallet have poisoned the state of Florida with the NRA-backed Stand Your Ground Bill. The law basically grants Floridians the right to use deadly force when threatened in private or public (we saw how fairly this law panned out in the Trayvon Martin case). Bush’s ability to outright accept mythical figures as his idols, to gift ceremonial swords, and to sign into action bills that make almost no sense in reality might label him as legitimately insane.
Now, for as crazy as Ronald Reagan was (scheduling important meetings by the advice of an astrologer, thinking ketchup counted as a vegetable), he wrote to Congress in 1994 urging them to support a ban on the further manufacture of military assault weapons. We might remember Reagan signing into law the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which among other things, imposed stricter regulations on the buying and selling of guns, the transfer of ammunition, and a regulatory ban on machine guns.
DID REAGAN CRY ENOUGH?
You all might know him as John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, but here at F we know him as John, that guy who cries a lot. Although he isn’t the only politician to make a foray into the art of tear-jerking, he is the most notable offender. From the national anthem to the revealing of the Ronald Reagan statue, Boehner has showcased his exceptional skill of crying on demand, even if it is for a statue of a former president.
But as far as F can remember, the only time we ever saw Reagan cry was on the cover of TIME magazine in 2007 with text alongside his face that reads “How The Right Went Wrong.”
DID REAGAN PASS EITHER U.S. HISTORY OR U.S. GEOGRAPHY?
Unlike his famous “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, it left me” statement that shook Democrats with rage at the time, Reagan now probably turns over in his grave every time he hears a member of his own party — like Rick Perry — speak.
Perry is infamous for getting basic U.S. history and geography wrong, and we have a feeling that if he had competed on the former show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader he would not win. The too-tan, gun-slinging, former governor of Texas is famous for saying things like: “The reason that we fought the American Revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown, if you will.” Oh, we will, former Governor Perry.
Here are a few other gems uttered by Perry, because we like the idea that Reagan is forced to turn over in his grave after seeing the long-term effects of his ridiculous public education policies.
“Juarez is reported to be the most dangerous city in America.” This is an actual thing the former Governor of Texas (and presidential hopeful) said.
“George W. Bush did a great job in the presidency, defending us from freedom.” That he did, Perry. That he did.
Though Reagan was certainly ridiculous, and maybe even a racist (he stood in the way of a U.S. Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act as well as constructing a frankly predatory “drug war”), he, at least to some degree, had some reservations about the way he ran his term, including occasionally admitting he was wrong. It doesn’t always mean he cared about every American. His trickle down economic policy seriously oppressed an entire class of people. At first, Senator Bob Dole sounded kind of insane when he made his claim that the poster-boy for Republican fanaticism wouldn’t make it in today’s party, but the more we thought about Reagan trying to fit into today’s GOP, the more Sen. Dole’s point made sense.