The debate over the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan has taken on a tea-colored hue over the past few weeks, but the Reagan family feud moved into top gear this morning.
It all started late last month when, in an appearance on The Joy Behar Show, Ron Reagan said that his father, the 40th president of the United States, wouldn’t have supported the tea party movement if he were alive today.
“Oh, I think he would be unamused by the tea partiers, with their Hitler signs and all the rest of it. No, I don’t think he’d cotton to that much at all,” Reagan said.
Conservative defenders of all things Reagan were quick to point out the elder Reagan’s anti-tax views as evidence of his probable allegiance with the tea party movement. But the argument really got going when another of Reagan’s progeny, Ron’s brother Michael, put out a press release refuting his brother’s opinion this morning.
“I believe he would embrace the Tea Party Movement, if he were alive today, and support the work of Sarah Palin, Scott Brown and others who espouse conservative principles,” Michael Reagan, the spokesman for the newly formed Reagan PAC said of his late father. “He would be applauding the grassroots organization of this country and Sarah Palin for making herself available to elect conservative candidates.”
Of course Michael would say that; he’s got to justify giving campaign money from a PAC with his dad’s name on it to tea party queen Sarah Palin somehow. What may surprise you is that I totally agree with him. Of course President Reagan would love the tea party movement if he were alive today, assuming he were still living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Let me be crystal clear on this: Alzheimer’s Disease is a deadly condition that no one should take lightly. I have no intention of belittling those who suffer from it or the pain experienced by their loved ones.
Still, if Reagan were alive today, we’d have to assume he’d be afflicted with symptoms of the debilitating neurological disorder he suffered from for years before his death in 2004. That simply has to be taken into account when determining whether or not he’d support something just emerging in the past year.
Alzheimer’s Disease causes mild forgetfulness in early stages, an absentmindedness that could be helpful in reconciling the many ideological inconsistencies of the tea party movement. For example: Rather than blame hypocrisy for his railing against government-subsidized Cadillac healthcare plans like the one he himself has, tea party organizer Dick Armey would surely like to pretend that he forgot how he pays his medical bills. Ditto Palin and her crib notes to slam Obama on his teleprompter. And so on.
Another common occurrence for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s is memory regression. Patients seem to get stuck in an earlier time, able to remember something such as their fifth grade teacher’s name but not their granddaughter’s. This can be very difficult for said granddaughter.
But for your average tea partier, whose rhetoric is more easily reconcilable with McCarthyism and the Red Scare, such regression may be a welcome break from all these newbies who don’t know the definition of socialism.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Aging division, Alzheimer’s Disease manifests itself in several ways other than memory problems. These symptoms include impulsive behavior, inability to learn new things or cope with new situations, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
Now, I’m not saying that all teabaggers have Alzheimer’s. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is that a person who is suffering such symptoms might naturally be drawn to an organization such as the tea party movement. Who would feel more comfortable surrounded by people who think the government is trying to destroy the country than someone suffering from paranoid delusions? And while impulsiveness may cause some sign-makers to forgo spell check, once they’ve hoisted the slogan above their head, forgetfulness will take care of the rest.
So again, my heart goes out to anyone who has Alzheimer’s, or who cares for someone who does. I encourage each and every reader to learn more at (and donate to, if you can) the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
But in this silly argument as to whether President Reagan would or wouldn’t have been a tea partier, such a condition just might have been the determining factor. The group has just enough Reaganomics-y theories in it that, if you mixed a little dementia in, even a forgetful Reagan himself may have joined in the fun.
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