Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas."

--Republican candidate for California governor Ronald Reagan, 1966.

Glib and boastful, the Seven of Swords offers an attractive deception to the weary and beleaguered that must fend with the strife brought by this suit. On the Waite card, a grinning thief takes five swords while leaving two. He takes what he can carry and steals only what he wants. And he moves quickly and quietly. The card suggests everything from petty theft to a coup d'etat. And at its core is an intoxicating lure of charm and deceit. It is not important to know the truth or to tell it. It is only important to think you know and then to believe.

A modestly popular movie and television actor, Ronald Reagan began his political life as a union member and FDR Democrat but by the early 1950s had become a conservative anti-communist. During the political witch-hunts of Sen. Joe McCarthy, Reagan was an FBI informer who helped to destroy the careers of several Hollywood actors by exposing their leftist political histories. By 1966 he was the governor of California. Just four years after a seemingly washed up Richard Nixon lost in a landslide to incumbent governor Pat Brown, Reagan trounced Brown by more than a million votes. Reagan ran as an unapologetic conservative against two constituencies, one hapless and the other quite small. The first comprised the state's poorest families whom Reagan described as bums that preferred to make welfare "a way of life, freeloading at the expense of more conscientious citizens." Many of these poor were people of color, a fact not lost on either Reagan or his supporters. In opposing the state's 1964 Fair Housing Initiative, Reagan stated "if an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his home, he has a right to do so." Fourteen years later Reagan would kick off his first presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers had been murdered in the early Sixties while attempting to register blacks to vote.

The other comprised the noisy student activists at UC-Berkeley and other university campuses who marched for free speech and civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Reagan drew loud cheers when he vowed to clean up "the mess in Berkeley" and accused student war protestors of treason. He found and struck the disgruntled chords of a growing white middle class, arousing its collective racial and cultural resentments to cobble together an angry majority. Reagan never stated his support for racism, but he was clear in his view that the government had no business opposing it. It was a position that helped him pull 40 percent of the traditional union blue-collar vote, even though he hated labor unions and sought throughout his political career to destroy them.

As governor, Reagan appointed members to the University Of California Board Of Regents while holding a seat of his own. At a Regents' meeting in 1968 Reagan applies his avuncular charm to Regent Catherine Campbell Hearst, mother of four daughters including 15-year-old Patricia. It is five years before radical SLA terrorists will kidnap Patty Hearst from her student apartment just blocks from the site of this Regents' meeting. Hearst had been appointed to the Board in 1956 and took strong stands against student activism and political protests on campus. She was the wife of newspaper mogul Randolph Scott Hearst. Reagan would move on to the presidency and leave student radicals in his dust. But Catherine Hearst would address the New Left's dying reprisals at her doorstep.

In 2002, a San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporter revealed that Reagan had worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI on ways to undermine student dissent and arrest and expel members of UC-Berkeley's Free Speech Movement. Hoover urged Reagan to fire UC President Clark Kerr (he did) and also suggested ways Reagan could use surveillance to disrupt student protests. During the bloody uprising over People's Park, Reagan called in the National Guard and allowed state police to tear gas the Berkeley campus during a student rally. Whenever he declared his intent to crush student protest, his popularity ratings soared. Radicals loved to draw Reagan into a fight, convinced that by exposing his conservative extremism the public would eventually rally to the side of protestors. But it never happened. Reagan won re-election in a 1970 landslide and his staunch defense of anti-Communism, his law and order agenda, and his support for the Vietnam War and so-called "traditional values" formed the platform for the conservative resurgence of the 1970s and 1980s.