Right Wing Obstructionism. It All Began With Reagan.

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Ronald Reagan ran for President in 1968 and lost in the Republican primary. He lost again in 1976 to a true Conservative, Jerry Ford.  He won the Republican nomination in 1980 in very controversial conditions within the Republican Party. Until the completion of the full Southern strategy of the Neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, the emerging kooks, as it were, Reagan had no chance. Then the Republicans decided to pick up the bigoted elements of the South, those like current Senator Peter Sessions of Alabama who still referred to African-Americans as “boy” and who thought, and still think, that higher education equals, beer, booze, broads and football.

Reagan was prepared to make his initial foray into the campaign with a symbolic speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in which he gave his opinion that affirmative action had run its course…after only 15 years. Of course, this was music to the ears of former Dixiecrat Presidential candidate Strom Thurmond, one of the greatest bigots and racists ever to occupy a seat in the United States Senate. As you will hear in this speech, Reagan had already formed a political philosophy many years before that allowed the Conservatives to align an undercurrent of unspoken racism with anti-Socialist rhetoric in order to appeal to the less savory side of the South without alerting the rest of the country’s voters.

A year before the election, a popular President, Jimmy Carter, himself a Southerner from Georgia, a naval academy graduate and a nuclear engineer as well as a peanut farmer, was fighting the same inflationary problems that caused his predecessor to bring out the famous “WIN” buttons, (for Whip Inflation Now.)  He was suddenly confronted by a series of problems coming from Iran. Americans learned, most of us for the first time, that the Shah of Iran had been installed as a dictator by the Americans and the British many years before as a protective device against the Soviet bloc and to insure that our very profitable arrangements with the Iranian oil ministry remained intact.  Iran, long a nation under the rather totalitarian rule of the Shah and a vicious secret police, was undergoing a revolution being led by Islamic clerics.

In November 1079 during  this uprising,  Iranian revolutionaries invaded the United States Embassy and kidnapped 53 Americans who were held through the entire election season and not released until Inauguration Day 1981. After a year of  pounding on the issue of Iran and inflation and promising to cut taxes for the rich to the bone, Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected. We later learned that he had traded weapons to the Iranians in return for the release of the hostages, even though Reagan himself had vowed never to barter with hostage takers.

Years before he was President, before he was governor of California, but after he had testified against other Hollywood members of the Screen Actors Guild, of which he was President, as being “Communists,” (and there most certainly were some) he spoke out in a series of speeches for his sponsor, General Electric, then the most conservative company in the United States. One of those speeches was against Medicare. And here it is.  This will let you know  how  Conservatism of the current kind got started and how it became the kind of argumentation where you put up false premises (Medicare will turn the country Socialist and itself be “Socialized Medicine”) and then knock them down with perfectly logical (but irrelvant) arguments (this country does not want socialized medicine or to be made over into a Socialist country.) Of course none of the situations  that Reagan was trying scare the American people with would ever come to pass.

We don’t know if Reagan really believed such relatively silly ideas. We do know–from this speech– that he opposed both Medicare and Social Security. It is interesting that Shrub Bush believed in both those premises and worked against both of them, trying to replace Social Security with what would have been the most disastrous move in the history of the country had he succeeded…the flipping of each American’s Social Security into a private, stock market pension fund that would now be almost worthless as a retirement income for Americans retiring  today. It is also interesting that Bush Sr., a man from a strong Republican family, but from the Eastern Establishment, called Reagan’s policies “voodoo economics” and supported a social safety net, even though his family background was quite traditionally conservative Republican.

Here’s just about all you need to know about where all this nonsense came from. Reagan was a patriot, a former Roosevelt Democrat. He rejected Communism which  he probably equated with Socialism, buttressed by his new father-in-law, Dr. Loyal Davis, Nancy Davis’s step father, who was an arch-conservative, an aknowledged bigot, but a brilliant surgeon. GE saved Ronald Reagan from the acting scrapheap. He was doing live shows in Las Vegas, even though he was not a singer, and not a trained dancer. So it is somewhat natural that he would have adjusted his views and begun to rationalize his new philosophy.  He was not raised nor could he ever become the kind of person who would admit that he was merely shilling for major corporations or for the American Medical Association.

If you listen to what he says, you will see that, what–for him–was a way to assuage his conscience given the kind of person he was, has become for Republicans and for that dolt,  George W. Bush an ideology. It is as if one were to somehow come up with the logic that kleptomania is justified because retailers form large blocs of power in which they control the distribution of goods. And along comes a kleptomaniac who doesn’t like what he does very much. So he makes up an economic philosophy that kleptomania is justified and suddenly you have millions of otherwise ordinary citizens becoming kleptomaniacs and feeling justified in doing so.

Here is the Reagan speech early on about Medicare legislation and Socialy Security.

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By the way, the alternative proposal on medicine that Reagan made sound so logical and beneficial  came from an oil man from Oklahoma, Senator Robert Kerr of Kerr-McGee Oil.  It was passed and the King-Anderson bill, referred to by Reagan, the precursor of Medicare was defeated  until Lyndon Johnson was elected and he pushed it through and it became Medicare. Kerr-Mills was a bill desgined to give money to the states, who then would decide who got care and who didn’t.  Some states had some services, other states had other services and yet other states had virtually none. So President Kennedy’s plans for Medicare were essentially stymied by Senator Kerr and Rep. Wilbur Mills of Arkansas until Lyndon Johnson’s  sweeping victory in 1964.