In SiCKO, Michael Moore’s new film, a young Ronald Reagan is shown appealing to working-class Americans to reject “socialized medicine” as commie subversion. In the 1940s and 1950s, Reagan was employed by the American Medical Association and big business as the amiable mouthpiece of a neo-fascism bent on persuading ordinary Americans that their true interests, such as universal health care, were “anti-American”.
Watching this, I found myself recalling the effusive farewells to Reagan when he died three years ago. “Many people believe,” said Gavin Esler on the BBC’s Newsnight, “that he restored faith in American military action [and] was loved even by his political opponents.” In the Daily Mail, Esler wrote that Reagan “embodied the best of the American spirit — the optimistic belief that problems can be solved, that tomorrow will be better than today, and that our children will be wealthier and happier than we are”.
Such drivel about a man who, as president, was responsible for the 1980s bloodbath in Central America, and the rise of the very terrorism that produced al-Qaeda, became the received spin. Reagan’s walk-on part in SiCKO is a rare glimpse of the truth of his betrayal of the blue-collar nation he claimed to represent. The treacheries of another president, Richard Nixon, and a would-be president, Hillary Clinton, are similarly exposed by Moore.