Back in the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan came into office, I was fresh out of college and eager to make a mark on the world. I had a new job with an investment banking firm. The company transferred me out to Philadelphia from Chicago to work in their marketing department. And eight months later they fired the VP of Marketing and sent the rest of us packing. So I limped back home to Chicago wondering what the hell just happened. Is this how the free market really works?
The economy was not all that hot at the time. I flirted with joining a Chicago advertising agency because the Creative Director was head of the corporate running team. They were eager for talent to beat all the other firms in town, and I was running 10ks just under 32:00 at the time.
But the agency wasn’t doing quite well enough to justify that leap of faith. Thus I learned that while running talent is nice, in the long haul, it really doesn’t have that much value in this world. Call that one of life’s little lessons in reality.
Still, I kept at it for a couple more years, winning plenty of races along the way. That was an investment, you might say, in my long-term satisfaction with life. Those few years were my window to run and race faster than I ever would again. There is only period in life when you set can all your PRs and continually improve.
During that period I also wrote like a fiend. One of those projects was a novel that sits in a computer into which I later transcribed all the hand-written pages I’d composed when my IBM Selectric went on the fritz. The novel was titled Admissions, and predicted (back in 1981, mind you) that one day a political movement calling itself The Mandate would emerge to take over AM Radio and create a political voice of instigation, accusation and control. And that came true. Fox News. Rush Limbaugh. The rest of those mandate idiots.
There were many other predictions the novel contains that also have come true. Even back then, I could see where the Reagan Revolution, as some called it, was heading toward a winner-take-all plan to take over the country. Him and his cowboy hats. Bush II acted like that too.
I studied the Reagan philosophy and his installation of people such as James Watt, the man who viewed his Department of the Interior as an excuse to openly promote extraction policies and gut the burgeoning hopes of an environmental movement that had made significant progress improving the quality of air, water and resources in America. On top of his political ideology, Watt was also a religious nihilist who believed there was no sense in protecting the earth because Jesus was going to come back and fix the place anyway.
As a longtime Christian, I studied this philosophy as well. It motivated me to engage the subject one day in a book I wrote titled The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. It examined the impacts of biblical literalism on politics, culture and the environment.
Perhaps I care a little too deeply about these matters. Perhaps I also cared a little too deeply about winning running races during those Reagan years. But it felt hellish more real than sitting around those Reagan Youth parties to which I was occasionally invited, those parties where guys sat around with popped polo shirt collars and perfect hair preaching trickle-down economics over Lite beers and fucking fondue pots. Shallow, phony bastards trying to get into the pants of the Stepford Women conservatives hanging out at the same goddamned parties. I had a tall blonde girlfriend with big tits at the time, and at one party we turned up the music and danced right over their goddamned Reagan Worship rituals.
“Fuck them,” I thought. And during those years I pumped my rage at their shallow brains into beating everyone I could on the roads. At the start of one 5-mile race, some joker in the first mile tried to play politics early in the race by asking, “How fast are you running today?” I didn’t even turn my head to answer. “Faster than you,” I replied. And took off for the victory at 24:47 for five miles.
Some of those same instincts course through my veins these days. This is the New Age of Shallowness. Those goddamned Reagan Youth grew up into Trump Supporters. They stand embittered by 40 years of failed Republican policies including an economic recession caused by their first Puppet President. But they needed someone else to blame. So they popped their collective collars and voted for a man that even Ronald Reagan would not abide.
Remember what Ronnie said about the Soviets, the Russians? “Trust, but verify.” Trump has done exactly the opposite. The Russians hacked our elections and Trump doesn’t even care. In fact, he publicly invited Russians to hack his political opponent. It’s like someone stuck their arm up Reagan’s ass and turned him inside out.
It’s indeed been a long road from Reagan to Trump. But I can say with all confidence that I was never fooled by these asshats in the first place, and I’m not fooled this time around either. So I’ll end this diatribe (and that’s indeed what it is…) with a quote from Hunter S. Thompson that sums up the right-wing bullshit to which we’re all now front row witnesses.
“Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous ‘trickle-down’ theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow ‘trickle down’ to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.”
Thank you, Hunter. I could not have said it better. But I sure do know better. Too bad so much of America does not, and voted for the likes of Donald Trump, whose version of trickle-down ideology tends to be golden, bouncing off the backs off all those who voted for him while he tells them it’s raining. Welcome to Make America Great Again.
He got you good, didn’t he, Reagan Youth? He got you good.