Biography of U.S. President Ronald Reagan Part 11 Psychohistory

About the United States President Ronald Reagan, biography and history including a psychoanalysis.


40th President



The question is: How did Ronald Reagan, a young man with working-class parents who were impassioned liberals, whose father had a job thanks to FDR's New Deal, who led a student demonstration and acted in an antiwar play, change into a staunch supporter of the rights of corporations over the rights of the poor, who violently attacked student demonstrators, and who continued to refer to the Vietnam War as "a noble cause" as recently as 1980.

Before W.W. II, Reagan had been an actor who followed orders. In the army he became a captain and learned to give orders. After the war he rose quickly in the ranks of his union and, as its representative, came into increased contact with representatives of the other side. More and more he began to identify with the values of the studio chiefs with whom he was negotiating. During the HUAC investigations, he pleased the motion picture producers by taking up the cause of anticommunism and agreeing to help them clean up Hollywood's image. A few weeks after Reagan's testimony to HUAC, columnist Louella Parsons wrote, "You may be sure Jack Warner, who is fighting communism in Hollywood along with the other producers, is giving Ronnie a break he deserves." By 1954 Reagan had become a spokesman for General Electric, one of the largest and most antiunion corporations in the U.S. Once "Ronnie" crossed over into the world of the wealthy, he kept on the path and never looked back.

In many ways, Ronald Reagan was a dream come true for the leaders of corporate America--a politician who is a real actor; a man who started his career by convincing radio audiences that he was actually at a sports event when he was really reading off a ticker-tape machine and inventing the details; a man who made his living following directions and reading from scripts and convincing the American people that the resultant performance was reality. Is it really surprising that Ronald Reagan should graduate from fake broadcasts (which his listeners enjoyed) to fake statistics and fake facts?

One more disturbing aspect of Reagan's psychology is his big-stick paternalism. Although he seems to have been a fairly distant father to his children, he presents the image of a parent who would rather use the rod than spoil the child. As governor of California, Reagan seemed to perceive all students and minorities as his children, and his rod became rifles, tanks, tear gas, and a whole array of experimental crowd-control weapons. As president, Reagan appears to have expanded his conception of his "children" to include the citizens of Third World countries. His support of the authoritarian dictators of many of these nations (South Korea, Philippines, El Salvador, Chile, etc.), coupled with his concern for the interests of U.S. corporations, has led him to ignore considerations of human rights. Having enjoyed the suppression of his unruly "children" as governor, he has shown no hesitation in providing unpopular foreign leaders with the weapons they need to beat down the rebellious masses in their own countries.

In 1953 Reagan was the model in a Van Heusen shirt advertisement ("Won't wrinkle ever!" read the headline), and in reissuing the ad 27 years later the company added a congratulatory message: "The wonderful thing about America is that sooner or later, everyone's dream can come true." President Reagan, whose dreams are in line with corporate interests, would agree. But how does Reagan regard those Americans with differing dreams? Ronald Reagan truly believes in America. Even his critics have not questioned the sincerity of that belief. But certain groups of citizens are wondering if Reagan's America believes in them.

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