Did Ronald Reagan Drink Kool Aid?

Reagan Obama and Kool Aid Man

Kool Aid Days of Yesteryear:

As a kid in rural Southeast Louisiana, I enjoyed Kool Aid.  I didn’t really drink much, but ate it.  You see, we would make a pitcher of Kool Aid, this red tropical punch and a deep purple grape were my favorites, pour it into a shallow oblong pan and place it into the freezer.  The next day, we would pour a small amount from the pitcher onto the frozen substance, tilt the pan to spread the liquid and allow it to immediately freeze as a thin layer.  Spoons at the ready, we shaved off that layer and ate it quickly which usually allowed enough time for the first layer to melt just enough that one swift down thrust of a spoon broke the Kool Aid into pieces.   We’d fill our thermos bottle or plastic cup first obtained from a fountain drink bought at the gas station, head back outside, and enjoy our slush as we called it.  Being that the air temperature was usually in the 90s, humidity above 80 percent, and heat index about 100 in the shade, we usually gulped the slush and the ice cold resulted in that short term excruciating brain freeze. It may have been part stupidity and part sadistic self infliction, but I think it was that instant pleasure and relief felt by gulping which made brain freeze a reasonable risk.   In all honesty, I’ll admit that I continued the slush practice beyond childhood, high school days, and into adulthood and for whatever reason the occurrences of brain freeze lessened in both frequency and level of discomfort.

Kool Aid Today:

Today, the term Kool Aid has become this “Blah, blah, blah,” “Talk to the hand” or “Yada, yada, yada” in politics.  Someone disagrees with your political position, and the advice to stop drinking the Kool Aid will probably occur once questions about reality versus perceptions of reality are raised.  Specific citations from the Congressional Record and cross references to additional committee reports seem to be the result of drinking Kool Aid.  I wonder, however, if for most people, is it really a disagreement on principles, reality versus perception and being countered less with emotion than with multiple sources which can be documented from primary sources and not mere opinions, or is just a desire or longing for those times such as childhood when you could view things however you wanted?

At the beginning of this election cycle, I would argue that both the Obama and Romney campaigns suffered from brain freeze; perhaps resulting from too much Kool Aid slush consumption.  The incumbents spent the majority of time reminding everyone of how bad things were at the conclusion of the prior administration.  I don’t think many people felt things were great, but how often does anyone need to be reminded.  The other side, however, is on record that a priority was to assure that Obama would be a one term president.  At times that record is acknowledged and at times disavowed.  I have yet to detect a pattern for that continual shifting.

As time passed, however, the GOP has focused on what they are portraying as anti-American, redistribution of wealth, increased taxes, too much spending by the President, usurping of the Freedom of Religion, increasing deficit, too many takers, apologetic weak foreign policy, and so on.  (Yes, I realize that some of those listed are essentially the same and that countless others can be added).  I’ve heard multiple references to the “patriotism” of the Boston Tea Party and to the modern figurehead of conservatism with Ronald Reagan.  I have seen a slight move toward specific ideas and assessments from the Obama campaign, but am still awaiting the “how” and “what” submissions from the Romney campaign.  Admittedly, it sounds great in theory, but can it actually be done?  I would like to see some details.  It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear, and it is even easier to hear only what you want to hear.  Being easy does not necessarily mean it is the best.

The Tea Party with Kool Aid?

We created a very amateurish video but one with a historical analysis that is consistent with the majority of leading scholars of that period on the Boston Tea Party.  Our little creation also contains a snippet from the 1947 United States War Department feature Don’t Be a Sucker, not as an attempt to link the Tea Party Movement to Fascism, but to highlight the difference of feelings when something is directed at you versus being directed at somebody else.  To state again, the Tea Party Movement or Republican Party is far from being NAZI or Fascist; Barack Obama and the mainstream Democrats are far from being Socialists.  Those who like to toss those names typically have little understanding of the ideologies, and more than likely would have a difficult time surviving in the extreme system of their “choice” and would probably have slightly more success in navigating the opposite extreme.


Ronald Reagan, Kool Aid Drinker, Yes or No

While that video and the written description are basic history 101 and not so great animation, I’m attempting to address a historical idea that is far from having developed any consistency within the works of scholars.   Since a persistent theme throughout this election cycle has been to invoke the name Ronald Reagan into ideologies, I decided look at a few of the most basic perceptions versus reality in reference to Ronald Reagan.   It has only been recently that some media outlets are presenting Reagan realities versus myths in this election cycle.  Many, both those who promote and those who argue against “Reagan Conservatism” are shocked when they discover which Presidential candidate is more in tune of that image of America.  Please take a glance at this opinion article published from a network which I find cited in many of the anti-President stories I receive.


(Another article by the same author, Sally Kohn, is available here:  http://www.salon.com/2012/09/18/gops_disgraceful_elitism/

Please follow some of the embedded links, and look at the contradictions.  The tragedy of lost lives and the uncertainty in Middle East recently has been in recent headlines, but the criticism of the President being naïve, apologetic, and weak are very reminiscent to those levied at Reagan in his words and interactions with Mikhail Gorbachev.

On the deficit and debt crisis, you can make some comparisons with current arguments to those during the Reagan years here:



Conservatism of Yesterday and Today

These articles concerning Lindsey Graham illustrate a few of the differences between both perceptions and actual events of the Reagan administration with those of the current Republican Party.



Do the 47 percent statements reflect Reagan ideology?  One review can be found here:


For a brief and extremely simplified look at Reagan’s positions on a few points, this source will provide a little overview:


I wonder how critical many people would be if President Obama implemented the Reagan “tax cuts,” “budget hawking,” or size of the Federal government?

Is it really simple?  Is anything…

Historically, I find the Reagan Presidency to be very complex.  I think scholars are going to continue to go back and forth as additional information becomes available and more importantly as time passes and people are not as influenced by their own remembrances.  That same pattern happened with other Presidents such as Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and JFK.  I still remember the shock of one of my most balanced professors in political ideology when he discovered that I was not alive at the time of the JFK assassination.  He had always used the “I’ll bet you remember exactly where you were when you learned that Kennedy had been shot” to demonstrate the effect of shock and image on evaluation.  Yes, I was the youngest in that graduate course, but the discovery and further realization that I was not born or even conceived during events in the later 1960s as well emphasized the necessity of making some changes in how to present material in undergraduate courses.

The links are only a brief sampling, but my disappointment is that much of the politicking is not about what can and cannot be done by the President.  It is attacks not based on actual events.  Regardless of what happened, people are more impressed by a generalized broad spin than actual data.

Is Obama really the new Kool Aid Man?

I wonder how many people adamant in their “disgust” of President Obama and place the presidency of Reagan on a pedestal, would be able to tell the difference between the two based on actual events.  Some have asserted that the increase of the national debt and levying of taxes is only Obama, but they don’t review the Reagan terms.   A laborer, community volunteer, garbage collector are valuable and successful citizens?  I read many arguments detailing the existence of citizens such as those as Obama trying to keep people dependent on welfare, but Reagan stated that citizens like these are essential to the American idea.

Many want to argue that President Obama is taxing the life out of America, spending beyond control, and increasing the size of government, and the true “Conservative” mantra is doing the opposite.  Well, what about the tax increases signed by Reagan, the increased government spending, and the growing size of government?  Watch Reagan’s addresses following events of that day and time such as the explosion of the Challenger and terrorist attacks.  Was every American standing alone, whether in tragedy or success?  Or were we all part of a community blessed by our freedoms and the sacrifices of those before us to obtain some and protect other rights we enjoy?  Like him or hate him, Reagan pushed forth the image that Americans need to take responsibility, but government would assist to maximize that effort as neighbor would assist a neighbor.

That’s a little different from this philosophy put forth by “Conservatives” today that some are creators and some are takers.  That’s different from this idea that listening and working together is a sign of weakness and it has to be all or nothing.  That’s different from saying that freedom of religion is there for any Christian (regardless of what you do) but not for someone of other beliefs (regardless of if their entire life has been one of generosity and edification for everyone in the United States).  I don’t think Reagan advocated making different people play the same game but with different rules depending on who you were.  It’s not redistribution; it’s not control; it’s being a community where everyone from the very top to the very bottom has ownership and responsibilities.  It’s those who are most able assisting those who are less.  I sort of remember reading somewhere the idea that to whom much is given much is expected.  Well, shouldn’t we all give back to the best of our own ability?  How is that redistribution and not simply contribution?

Kool Aid Then and Now

I don’t know if it is unfortunate, but I believe that Ronald Reagan drank Kool Aid.  He might have even created his own slush.  I wonder, however, how many of the people who embrace the legend of Reagan opposed to the actual events for political talking points are drinking Kool Aid?  I’m worried because whether they wear rose colored glasses or not, they seem to embrace the idea that brain freeze is the best part of slush, not the flavor and cool refreshment.

Thoughts on the Future of Kool Aid

I hope in the debates that Mitt Romney provides some details about his preferences.   I’ve gotten the message that Mitt Romney has more money than I would want to see in my lifetime.  If money makes you successful, more power to you as long as you earn it legally.  Personally, I would prefer that money be earned without taking advantage or cheating others, but I don’t know if my definitions match yours or yours mine.  That’s OK because I have to live with myself and you with you, so no matter how much our definitions differ, we are both correct or we are both wrong.  I know about the preferences of the GOP media and pundits, but I do not know what Mitt Romney, the man and a potential President, prefers as opposed to Mitt Romney the GOP nominee.

I know more about the preferences of Barack Obama.  Drinking Kool Aid or not, you can look at the record of events on Capitol Hill for clarification.  Yes, I know that’s Congress, but if the President were this power mad anti-American socialist, I think that a lot of legislation would have been passed.  If the GOP approaches were in fact the best approaches, I think that the Presidential veto pen would be short of ink if he were intent on destroying the United States.  I have not seen much legislation, however, addressing the problems of society placed on the calendars for votes in either Chamber.  I’ve mostly seen some good approaches by both Democrats and Republicans die in committee or bills on the floor for what I call “waste of time votes” because you know the other Chamber will not pass the bill.

Kool Aid or slush brain freeze?

Still, I want to see which candidate is more willing to tell me what I might not want to hear.  I want to know how difficult the next President believes it will be to climb out of the hole.  I don’t want the same lame brain game of “he said, she said” and pointing fingers.  There are no easy answers or solutions.   Whether Romney, Obama, and their respective supporters drink Kool Aid or not means nothing to me.  I’m just tired of the non-stop, unthawing brain freeze today, and I think the evidence weighs more heavily on the side that Ronald Reagan drank Kool Aid.