Note: If you missed the 10th to 5th place finishers, make sure to check out those now and don’t forget to check back for the Top 3 Biggest Assholes in American history!
Ronald Reagan…You may have noticed that the list hasn’t included a single U.S. President in either the Runner-Ups section or the 10 through 5th Biggest Assholes in American history. And—spoiler alert—the 3rd through 1st place finishers aren’t Presidents either. So how on Earth is Ronald Reagan the only President in the Top Twenty Biggest Assholes in American History? Because despite the cherry-picking historical holier-than-thoughs that have become fashionable, people like Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson don’t really belong on a list like this (or at least not more than Ulysses S. Grant or George Washington for identical reasons), and a slew of “One-Term Wonder” fuck-ups like Warren G. Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, or especially Herbert Hoover haven’t had near the impact of someone like Reagan.
Ronald Reagan is the worst President in American history because he combines the corruption of Harding, the economic heartlessness of Hoover, the foreign policy blunders of George W. Bush, the bigotry of Nixon, and the background that allowed someone like Trump to become President. He is the figure most responsible for everything that has gone wrong in the modern American era, and absolutely deserving of his position on this list. Although I think the “Top 3” are worse people or did more damage, Reagan is the person who’s most ruined the modern era, and completely gotten away with it since he left office with the highest approval rating since FDR.
10. He was a snitch. Ronald Reagan got his start as an untalented actor who eventually became the head of the Screen Actor’s Guild, and secretly provided the FBI with dozens of names during the witch-hunt phase for Communists. Who knows if these were just people more talented than Reagan that were taking jobs from him, but there’s no question that Reagan ruined the livelihoods of many of his so-called “fellow thespians.” It seems kind-of odd that the head of a union would be working to undermine that organization by turning in fellow actors, but it’s not the only time Reagan will do major damage to a union.
9. A flip-flop that would make Mitt Romney proud. Reagan started his career as a Democratic actor in Hollywood, but flip-flopped to ultra-Republican when it became convenient for him to do so, eventually giving a major speech for Barry Goldwater at the Republican convention of 1964 a la Clint Eastwood’s infamous chair talk for Romney. Reagan would pull a Romney, flipping his position on abortion, gun control, right-to-work legislation, taxation, and seemingly his entire political philosophy. How many of today’s biggest Republican assholes were Democrats first? Rick Perry, David Duke, Kim Davis, even Alabama’s own Roy Moore and let’s not forget Asshole-in-Chief Donald J. Trump. And that brings me to…
8. He set the stage for Trump. Reagan was an outspoken Democrat before becoming the standard bearer for ultra-conservatism, like Trump. Reagan was the first U.S. President ever to be divorced which was previously unthinkable for U.S. Presidents, now Trump has become the second. Reagan had kids with multiple women, sounds familiar. At the time, Reagan was the oldest first-term President ever elected, guess who just broke that record? And let’s not forget that Reagan was an entertainer that many thought could never become President, do I even need to say it? Is it any wonder that Republicans have been searching for their “next Reagan” since Ronald left office, and thought they’d found it with Donald. Hell, just change the first letter and you’ve got the second-coming.
7. An early opponent of Medicare or “Socialized medicine.” On behalf of the American Medical Association—that’s right, doctors are as responsible as Big Pharma for why our healthcare is the most expensive in the world—Reagan made a recording warning of the dangers of “socialized medicine.” Saying that if people didn’t write letters to prevent Medicare (which has saved more lives than the Polio vaccine) “we will awake to find that we have socialism,” and “you and I will spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it was once like in America when men were free.” Before he even became President, you can see that Reagan-esque blending of sentimentality and neo-facism that Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan still use to manipulate people “If you don’t repeal Obamacare, a bald eagle will fall dead from the sky in shame” or some shit.
6. The Architect of “Bloody Thursday.” When Reagan was Governor of California, he decided to stop the Berkeley campus protests “by any means necessary,” including sending in the California Highway Patrol to quell the protest, resulting in a death and several injuries. Reagan then sent out 2,200 National Guard troops to occupy the city of Berkeley for two weeks to crack down on the protesters. In my opinon, this one event is the most prescient at foreshadowing the rise of the police state and the various armored police tanks you might see rolling through any American city. When defending his use of extreme force towards campus protest movements, Reagan said “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.” Fortunately, Governor Jerry Brown’s first term would save California, and Brown would have to do it again after another Hollywood actor (an Arnold instead of a Ronald) would nearly bankrupt the state decades later.
5. Took credit for ending the Cold War and left office popular. Modern political pundits couldn’t find the truth if it took a dump on them, and that’s why you may see so many articles claiming “even Reagan wouldn’t have done” and then fill in the blank of some new crazy thing W. used to do or the Tea Party more recently or Trump today. The fact is that Reagan is near-single-handedly responsible for the pitiful expectations of Republicans and the dumbing down of the Republican Party. Reagan did not end the Cold War in any way, shape, or form, but is credited with it. He passed a bill making it illegal to knowingly hire or house illegal immigrants, but is somehow seen as soft on immigration. And Republicans still have a “debate” on whether Reagan exploded the deficit or not (this just in, he did). Modern pundits do not fully link how Reagan opened the door for people like W. Bush and Trump to become President in the first place, and how he ushered in most of what is wrong with the Republican Party today. But I’m getting ahead of myself, first let’s talk about…
4. His hatred of Communism created many of America’s current enemies. I could see how Republicans credit Reagan for “stopping” Communism since he was so fanatically against rich people monopolizing wealth that he directly, covertly, or unknowingly allowed Manuel Noreiga to ship drugs to America because he was anti-Communist, allowed the CIA to assist in drug smuggling to fund anti-communist operations, the Iran-Contra affair supplying arms to Iran to fund a covert war in Nicaragua, and, of course, creating the Afghani Taliban to help turn Afghanistan into Russia’s version of Vietnam. A young, wealthy Mujahideen recruiter named Osama Bin Laden may have received valuable military training he would use to create Al-Qaeda, and Bin Laden frequently mentioned Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing (that killed 241 Marines) as proof America would withdraw from the Middle-East if facing enough pressure.
3. Ushering in a new wave of Socially Conservative Heartlessness. Although Reagan is the modern Godfather of ultra-religious Republicanism, his evangelical underlings are notably light on actual human empathy. Not only did Reagan do nothing about the AIDs epidemic when it was killing gay men (Happy Pride Month everyone!), he revved-up the War on Drugs and passed strict new laws against crack cocaine that are arguably the single biggest driver of putting black men in prison (despite covertly smuggling the same cocaine into America to help the CIA fund anti-communist wars), and let’s not forget…
2. Reaganomics. I have railed against Trickle Down Economics so frequently and with such elaboration, I doubt there’s much new I could tell you here. You can even choose which variety of anti-Reaganomics rants you prefer as I’ve done them in audio (podcast), visual (YouTube videos), and thousand-word articles. Reaganomics is the worst economic system currently being advocated in the United States, and I’m including Bitcoin in that broad claim.
1. He is the figure most responsible for what’s wrong with the Republican Party. Remember when military conservatives used to be smart, like Eisenhower? Reagan changed that with a radical anti-Communist policy that is still affecting the way we view “the War on Terror.” Remember when social conservatives used to be (mostly) Democrats like the Dixiecrats? Reagan changed that by courting “the evangelical right,” and giving lunatics like Pat Buchanan (his communications director) and Jerry Falwell a voice in the Repubican Party, while also being the first to really push the idea of prayer in school, an encroachment on religious freedom that basically gave birth to the Charter school movement that’s used to get around public school separation of church and state. Remember when fiscal conservatives used to be sane? Reagan changed that by wanting to gut the progressive income tax system as we know it, and made severe cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs, and the EPA. He also helped create the savings and loan crisis and was ferociously anti-union.
Bonus Assholery: He fired the Air Traffick Controller’s who went on strike. This is seen as the first major blow to unions, the decline of a unionized middle-class, and the beginning of the income inequality that we “enjoy” today.
Bonus, Bonus Assholery: He may have been the first denier of climate crisis. Reports on global warming were available decades ago, and Reagan cancelled funding to study it when it was becoming apparent what was really causing climate crisis. As an added blowjob to his buddies in Big Oil, Reagan took down the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had installed on the roof of The White House. Might be helpful to know climate change denial started with Reagan now that Trump has pulled out of the Paris Accords to stop global warming.
Man, what an asshole.
Asshole Adjacent: When Scott Walker hammers teacher’s unions, he’s channeling Reagan’s firing of the Air Traffic Controller’s union. When Betsy DeVos advocates charter schools over public ones, she’s channeling Reagan. When every Republican alive is advocating tax plans that only benefit the wealthy, they’re channeling Reagan. When Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan rail against “socialized medicine” in a country with the most rightwing healthcare system in the world, they’re channeling Reagan. When Trump rails against Hillary’s emails while hiding his involvement with Russia, he’s channeling the same type of hypocrisy that allowed Reagan to make deals with Iran in private while denouncing them publically.
From Grover Norquist to Faux News to Sarah Palin to Mike Pence, there is little that’s wrong with the Republican Party today that can’t be traced back to Reagan.