On February 6, 2011, Ronald Reagan, if he had been alive, would have been 100 years old.
Publishers have rushed to put out worshipful tributes to his eight years as President. Network political programs such as “This Week” and “Meet the Press” have assembled surviving members of his administration to re-live the “glory days” of Reagan’s–and their–time in power.
The Republican party, of course, has done the most to create and promote this “cult of Reagan.” And it has done so for the same reason the Communist party of the Soviet Union created and fostered the “cult of Lenin.”
No two men could have been more different than Vladimir Lenin and Ronald Reagan. Lenin created the Soviet Union in 1917 and became its first in a series of absolute dictators. Reagan spent his life fighting Communism, most notably as President.
So it’s ironic that both men, in death, got essentially the same funeral–and for the same reason: To sanctify and legitimize their respective organizations–and the authority of their potential successors.
Lenin died in 1924 and was immediately succeeded by Joseph Stalin. Stalin knew that, despite Communism’s official athiestic stance, most Russians remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church.
So in giving Lenin’s funeral oration, Stalin used the language of religion to confer sainthood upon a militant athiest–and upon his successor, Stalin himself.
Stalin and his fellow Communists immediately launched the “cult of Lenin,” depicting him as a fatherly, all-wise leader whose genius could only be bestowed upon his closest disciples. Lenin’s extensive political writings were treated as divine writ, and were used to justify everything Stalin and his own successors wanted to do.
A classic example: Although Lenin died 20 years before the American creation of the atomic bomb, Lenin was hailed by the Soviets as the “father” of “Soviet nuclear physics.”
Similarly, the Republican party wasted no time turning its own former leader, Ronald Reagan, into a modern-day saint of mythical proportions. They have done so for the same reason that Stalin deliberately forged a cult around the dead Lenin—to create a “holy” figure of whom other Republicans can claim to be true disciples.
These deliberate fictions conveniently ignore a series of ugly truths:
- Reagan was only one of a series of Presidents who held the line against the Soviet Union.
- His budgets were just as stained with red ink as those of all previous Presidents.
- Far from standing up to Iranian terrorists, Reagan sold them our most sophisticated missiles in a weak-kneed exchange for American hostages. Then he went on television and brazenly lied that any such “arms for hostages” deal had ever happened.
- By the end of his term, 138 Reagan administration officials had been investigated, indicted or convicted for official misconduct and/or criminal violations.
- His “trickle-down” Reganomics brought prosperity to only the wealthiest 1% of Americans, proving that “a rising tide lifted some yachts.”
- By drastically shrinking the tax-base, bloating the defense budget and destroying programs to benefit the poor and middle-class, Reagan produced a $1 trillion deficit—which only the Clinton Administration eliminated.
- Reagan believed that government should not help the impoverished. Those who lacked wealth to buy such necessities as housing and medical insurance were written off as unimportant.
- John F. Kennedy had praised government service as an honor. Reagan repeatedly said that “the best and the brightest” could be found only in business.
- This denigration of government service continues among Republicans to this day–defaming the very institutions they lust to control.
- Although he often berated the poor for their “laziness,” Reagan adhered to a “banker’s hours” schedule: During his working hours in the Oval Office, he often had blocks of free time–two to three hours. He would call for his fan mail and answer it.
- Reagan saw no need to protect America’s fragile environment against corporate polluters eager to enrich themselves at its expense: “Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.”
Reagan famously attacked “welfare queens” and sought to deny government benefits for the poor. But he didn’t hesitate to enrich himself at public expense.
- Before his Presidency ended, 18 wealthy Californians contributed $156,000 apiece to buy him a 7,200 square-foot mansion overlooking Beverly Hills.
- Reagan signed a multi-million dollar deal to write his Presidential memoirs and publish a collection of his speeches.
- He signed an exclusive contract with a Washington lecture bureau, which paid him $50,000 per speech given in the United States and $100,000 overseas. This made him the highest-paid speaker in the country.
- These monies came in addition to his Presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his $30,000 annual pension as a former governor of California.
- At a cost to the government of $10 million annually, Reagan continued to receive lifetime Secret Service protection from 40 fulltime agents.
The “cult of Lenin” died when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The “cult of Reagan” continues to flourish, and will do so for as long as the Republican party finds voters willing to believe in it.