Reagan as John Wayne in 1980s America

My blogger pal from down under, Greg Maybury, has a new post on his site: Pox Amerikana.  It’s about the influence of Reagan on America and the world in the ’80s. I highly recommend it.  You can read it at .  I quote a passage here, with my reply below it. 

Maybury writes, “As far as The Gipper was concerned, once inaugurated he was the new Marshall in town, and like all good Marshalls do, when the bad guys drink the saloon dry, break the piano player’s fingers, trash the local whorehouse and rob the town bank, then the only thing he can do is form a posse, pack the saddle-bags and go after them in true John Wayne tradition.  In character, political mindset and ideology, and in the timing of his ascension to power, Ronnie was ideally positioned to do just that – bring the bad guys to justice and clean up the town.  For Reagan the bad guys were the Keynesians and the Communists, wherever they might be found.  More than any other modern president, Reagan walked into the White House with cow-shit on his boots, evoked the mythology of Old West with effortless ease, and for better or worse, successfully reinvented some of those myths for the modern world.”

My response: The Gipper-as-John-Wayne analogy works better if we imagine the Duke as the Christian Bale character in “American Psycho,” instead of a cowboy in a simple-minded Howard Hawks’ shoot-em-up.  Reagan put the whip to poor people, not the bad guys.  And the posse he led out of town were fatcat defense contractors, corporate raiders, savings-and-loan swindlers, and intelligence schemers.  It was more of a getaway than a round-up.  When the Duke/Gipper rode off into the sunset he left behind a teetering economy, the highest wealth inequity in our history, a cold disdain for poor minorities, an imperialist reputation despised by the rest of the world, and a sick American predilection for the Gordon Gekkos of the world.  Reagan was emblematic of  conservatives who were engaged in what Galbraith called, “the oldest philosophical sleight-of-hand: a moral justification for greed.”

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2 thoughts on “Reagan as John Wayne in 1980s America

  1. Hi Tim,

    This is all great stuff and your observations are on the money, Of course we are both speaking heresy here as you know. However, when writing this just before posting one of the scariest things I contemplated was the possible reality that Reagan – by way of comparison to some of his aspiring political heirs – was a moderate. Of course I use that last adjective loosely, but I’m sure you get my drift.

    I was interested to discover recently that Reagan’s son Ron (Gipper Junior?) appears to be a very considered, reasoned and reasonable guy (a ‘liberal’ even; check out various YT interviews), who has little time for the current crop of GOP folks claiming kinship with his old man’s legacy. Indeed, precisely because of his views, some of them appear to disown him, which I’m sure is of some comfort to him.

    Always great to hear from you m’man.

    GM aka TG

    1. In retrospect, Reagan does seem like a moderate. What does that say about the current fanaticism of the right wing in America. And yes, Ron Jr. has repudiated his father’s politics.

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