Communique "Ronnie's Dead Hands" 3-16-2021
Every so often I wonder if some time in the future someone interested in history or perhaps politics, and in need a good laugh, will read through some of my many ramblings and musings in an effort to understand what went so wrong with our precious democracy that ended with a tyrant in the White House and an insurrection upon Congress and the Capitol Building.
If so, this is one of those essays I would hope the curious would find and read for it strikes me as a “you had to be there to believe it” recitation of mostly historical events, sprinkled in with a little personal center left color and commentary of what I have perceived to be a roughly 50-year slide into mass hysteria and political madness starting with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1968.
In 1968, I was ten years old and even by that young age I was aware of the discriminatory practices of mankind, found them to be inexplicable as in why does it make you feel better to make someone else feel worse? And not for anything they did but how they were born, for what they are. Pretty good logic for ten wouldn’t you say?
I’m not sure if back then I could have made the direct connection from racism to the suppression of voting rights and how important it is for a representative democracy to adhere to the one person one vote standard we claim to practice, but in my mind, up to now, have yet to fully achieve. I must also add that in 1968 I did have a rudimentary understanding of the US Civil War and slavery, but I had but a faint clue as to just how much racially motivated hatred toward minorities was out there, if you knew where to look.
In 1969, I remember looking up and saw a plane sky writing out the single word “Yorty”. In one of those odd but telling stories of my youth, I knew Sam Yorty was the Mayor of Los Angles running for reelection because after watching Sheriff John, Perry Mason, Divorce Court and Felix The Cat I would believe it or not watch the George Putnam Show (I was a Channel 5 KTLA guy) that came on shortly thereafter one of those shows, don’t really remember which one.
I do remember George was very “stiff” and came off as a bit too “angry” for my taste. I also recall he did not like Tom Bradley who in 1969 ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Yorty. I also recollect at a time when everybody believed everything they heard on television as true, that Tom Bradley had connections to the Black Panther Party, and I knew that was not a roaring endorsement, or even compliment to say the least.
For the Record, by the late 60s early 70s I was also routinely listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. I loved his “The Whole Story” shtick, and I looked forward to his signature sign-off “Good day!” So, I already knew where my future loyalties would lie, firmly within what I was led to believe was called the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party. Sounded good to me, but as I soon discovered, not to everybody.
And so, on the day of the sky writer in the sky, I asked my Mom for a scoop on Yorty versus Bradley and why it appeared to be a “big” deal. That’s when she told me it was because Bradley was black. I didn’t understand. Why would that matter? Weren’t we supposed to nominate and elect the best man for the job and not choose by their color? Why did that matter?
Well, my lifetime dyed-in-the-wool Roosevelt Democrat Mom who I assure you voted for Bradley, started to tell me the facts of life. No, not “the sex talk” that happened awkwardly at the kitchen table a few years later complete with a kind of cooking utensil presentation if you can imagine that, if not, don’t bother it wasn’t pretty. But then again, neither was my first honest discussion with another human being about hatred, bigotry and discrimination.
And then the pieces started falling together. The Voting Rights Act of 1968, the not so underlying “tension” in the 1969 mayoral election and the Black Panthers. By the time of Richard Nixon’s election, and in later years I discovered due to the Southern Strategy when the Republicans offered the suddenly disenfranchised Dixiecrats (remember Strom Thurman?) a new home to practice their separatism, racism and exploitation of white voters fears and prejudices. There it was. “They” didn’t want “Them” to vote.
Tom Bradley lost the election but in a 1973 rematch, won the office and became the Mayor of Los Angeles for the next 20 years, the longest run of any Mayor in LA’s history. Shortly thereafter, I began my foray into politics in opposition to Nuclear Power, first door-to-door campaign and all, and did not occupy my immediate political thoughts with racial inequality relating to voter suppression, until Reagan came along, that is, when once again the beast was released.
Let me say flatly that Ronnie was a racist. How do I know this? Because now that Nixon had done away with the anti-war hippies, the right needed someone else to hate and discriminate against and Ronnie was more than happy to oblige. His main racist weapon was rather sneaky, he decimated the social welfare net that affected, you guessed it, a disproportionate percentage of minorities in America.
He also effectively raised taxes 12 times, but hey, what’s a little more money to pay when here is the guy who is defending your right to blame all of your problems, particularly if you were rich, religious, and of course white, on someone else. Some say Ronbo brought hope back to America, but think, hope for what, to accomplish what, and for who? And as importantly, excluding who?
Naturally, I was not a supporter as I watched not only racism and discrimination flourish, but also suffered through Cowboy Ron who managed to take his hideous California caveman policies and turned them into a national power-play for what I believe we can call today the concept of a permanent Republican majority of wealthy, white religious zealots, with the basic tenets of American democracy under attack. An attack that continues to this day.
As California Governor, Reagan was responsible for gutting social services including mental health programs meant to keep people who needed help off the streets. His disdain for anyone, let’s say, less than perfect that costed the State money were not his target constituents. He also didn’t like students and tried to destroy our public education system from grade schools up.
His excuse? As I recall, it was the first time I heard public schools had a “liberal bend” because the professors, or as he and his cronies called them, the Egg-Heads, were all socialists and commies bent on keeping prayers out of school. Separation of church and state, again, be damned.
When he went national, Ronnie started an unrealistic program called “Star Wars”, something akin to the “Space Force” fantasy of today and he is literally the idiot who let the lobbyists back into Washington DC politics from whence they had been banned since the days of Teddy Roosevelt.
He supported ALEC. He wanted a bigger military and said he liked when children played video games as they were more likely to join the military. Apparently, Ronnie the Dotard thought looking into a jet fighter display and Space Invaders had something in common. Like I said, you had to be there.
Needless to say, the dumbing down of America, and keeping the more easily led, especially when they are also poor, hungry and scared, leading to a Republican wet dream fantasy world of unquestioning believers in their party no matter the cost to themselves was off to a good start. So, they kept going.
Next George H.W. Bush, who was no Reagan, raised taxes once and unlike the consummate actor Reagan, couldn’t think of another term for it, and well, he had already told the truth about Reagan or “Voodoo” economics, you know the ones where they spend our tax dollars on things we don’t need, mostly luxury tax-breaks for the rich and insidious, and importantly deficits don’t matter both of which combined to form what we call today as a “trickle down” economy, did I mention Ronnie was also a union buster? Well, you get the picture.
Then came the beginning of the Democratic Party becoming the janitors of American politics, cleaning up after the drunken sailor spending sprees of every Republican presidential administration up and until this day. And all along the GOP yellow brick road, and yes, outright lies line the way toward greater wealth of the wealthiest, and a big coal sandwich for those who are only the pitiful members of “the working class”.
Remember the “job creators”? That Labor Day is for entrepreneurs and not actual laborers? All GOP standards during the last 50 years or so. The demonization of the middle class was well under way.
Then came Newt Gingrich, who put the polarization of America into overdrive. Then came 9/11 that put the overdrive into overdrive over persons, the Iraqis who did nothing to us. By now, the Fox News propaganda machine was in place turning previously capable of independent thought Americans into zombies. Then came Obama. Then came Mitch. Then came Trump.
So, you might be asking right about now, why does the Professor want future generations to see this essay? Because the last 50 years? When you boil down the events that led us to where we are today, a country recovering from a blend of having a significant percentage of the voting population under educated and stupider than ever, who then look in desperation to religion and false prophets and would keep a tyrant in office because he was “chosen” to lead us to a theocracy based on conspiracy theories and leading to an insurrection led by a handful of half witted, if at all, and self-interested politicians who have no problems openly siding with white nationalists.
And against all of his is the backdrop of an America turning black and brown by the minute, with whitey the man about to fall into a minority category of voter representation. What’s left is a strange blend of reverse discrimination, white grievance obsessed and desperate demographic group that as white privilege continues to dwindle, become increasing engaged in hate-based acts of domestic terrorism and violence.
Oh, and don’t forget the NRA for supplying to all the virtually illiterate not regulated at all militia/masses as many assault rifles as they will ever need. Thanks Charlton Heston, for supplying these lunatics with their very own Moses with a machine gun.
It was and is still all about race, racism, bigotry and discrimination against those who aren’t quite American enough, or to be more accurate, white enough to vote. To you in the future, please know we were not all like this. Many of us spent up and until our dying days try to put America back on track.
We tried to return to the American dream of each generation leaving the next generation a better world in which to live. A world of opportunity for all regardless of race, creed, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, and religious affiliation. Did we succeed? I hope so. Only time will tell.
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