Ronald Reagan, Stuart Stevens, and the great lie

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

Ronald Reagan, is known in history as the Great Communicator. According to one recent book, what the former president should be known as is the Great Liar.

One of the starkest revelations regarding both the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party is, perhaps, it’s oldest. This is the conclusion of author and longtime Republican Party strategist, Stuart Stevens in his book, It Was All a Lie.

In it, Stevens takes the reader through the history of the modern Right, laying bare the racist, homophobic, bigoted roots of the movement at large since the mid-1940s.

Although Stuart Stevens work lacks the scholarship of Jemar Tisby Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Kevin M. Kruse or Robert “Bob” Massie, his work is necessary in understanding the roots of what most have erroneously dubbed “Trumpism.”

Not only does he expose the racist roots of such “conservative” giants as Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, Jr., calling the magazine he founded as “basically a well-educated-racist publication,” (a reality that helps explain their attacks against First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, as well as Buckley’s well-publicized Nazi “solution” to HIV/AIDS victims).

Stevens takes on one of Reagan’s greatest racist-driven lies head on;

“In the glow of nostalgia around a smiling Reagan faded into the California sunset, Republicans have forgotten, have discounted, or, perhaps for some, still secretly admire that Ronald Reagan wielded race as a magnet to attract disaffected white Democrats.

“When Reagan attacked ‘welfare queens,’ white voters heard it and understood the unspoken accusation just as they did when George Wallace did the same. In the 1976 campaign, Reagan introduced his famous welfare fraud, a black woman in Chicago:

“’She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone had been running $150,000 a year.’”

While minority, urban “moochers” have been the long punching bag for the radical Right (think “Blue State bailouts”), the greatest problem with this story, according to Stevens’, was that none of it was true.

“Reagan’s ‘welfare queen’ was likely an exaggerated description of a woman exposed in 1974 articles in both the Chicago Tribune and Jet magazine…There is a small kernel of truth to it — the woman used four, not eighty names, and the total fraud was $8,000 — but when four becomes eighty and $8,000 total becomes $150,000 a year, Reagan is just lying.

“The majority of all welfare goes to white Americans and always has, but the specificity of a woman in Chicago makes the racial appeal clear.”

Do politicians exaggerate? Yes. This is known, common, and in many ways, expected.

But what we have here is far more than your typical exaggeration or misquote. Here, you have a candidate, and later president, with a well-documented 30+ year history of racist remarks and policies, outright lying about an urban-dwelling, racial minority caught in real fraud, though nothing close to Reagan’s accusations.

By embellishing her fraud beyond reason, Reagan was making his views known to all, especially white, working-class Americans; I will fight for your America.

I will not only stand against the minority “moochers,” but I will also stand against the progressive activists, judges and lawmakers, too, that grant these “undesirables” undeserved power. I will repeal all of those unconstitutional laws that make it easy for them to cheat in the first place.

The clear, unspoken message; only racial, ethnical, religious, and sexual minority, “urban” dwellers cheat. Those with disabilities cheat.

The blood-sweat-and-tears white, working class, “rural” dweller, well, you’re alright. You work for what you’ve got.

Taking a que from the Great Liar himself, the Republican Party has been doing it ever since.

From unfounded accusations of “voter fraud,” ramped among urban-dwelling minorities, calls for mass insurrection to keep Donald Trump in power, to continued accusations of “socialism” against Democratic candidates, as those leveled against Rev. Rapael Warnock in Georgia.

The only difference is, unlike with Reagan, they no longer feel the need to hide it under Trump.

As Stuart Stevens’ himself notes, “It was all a lie.”



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Tiffany Elliott

Writer with 15 + years experience; journalist, editor, freelancer, and play write. Advocate for the arts and rights of expendables.