Ronald Reagan's "Backdoor Socialism": Studies in Crap Reveals The Counterfeit Candidate
Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from area basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
The Counterfeit Candidate
Author: Kent H. Steffgen
Publisher: National Issues, Las Vegas
Discovered at: Mission Hills estate sale
The Cover Promises: "Legalized abortion, forced school bussing, women's lib, sex education in the schools, freeing of the criminal, overtaxation, doubled spending, socialized medicine, economic strangulation, land-use control - this is a conservative?"
ALSO: Maybe it would just be easier if the fringe right released a list of everyone who isn't a socialist.
"In 1969, he signed a bill to outlaw the internal combustion engine by 1975." (page 14)
"New York is on its way down for real. It is never coming back; repeat, never. It will either end up a ward of the public government or in a state of anarchy, one or the other." (page 37)
This spurious little volume, Kent H. Steffgen's second book-length attack on the then California governor, assails the wrinkly ol' nappy-time legend that today's conservatives imagine twinkling down from his starry heaven like God in It's A Wonderful Life.
Yes, before they came to believe that Reagan's tough-talk and military spending somehow led to the 70 years of infrastructure neglect that destroyed the Soviet Union, some John Birch-society doubting Thomases dared to trash the Gipper. Steffgen snarls that Reagan is "an impostor," a "hopeless incompetent," "a practicing socialist" and "the smoothest salesman socialism ever had." He even predicts that a president Reagan would be "the biggest spender since Franklin D. Roosevelt," which is total -- oh. Okay. We'll give him that one.
Anyway, reading such invective, your Crap Archivst feels a naïve twinge of hope. Perhaps today's political discourse can learn from the stupidity of the past! Permit me to address directly any members of the talk-radio right who might have stumbled here on their hunt for things to be outraged by:
Dear Talk-Radio Right,
Do you really want to sound like this asshole?
[Since The Counterfeit Candidate includes no illustrations, your Crap Archivist is including photos from the April 14, 1975, People piece "Ronald Reagan Hits the Road, Preaching and Making Friends."]
Steffgen's charges center on mild reforms -- Medi-Cal, burning bans, and others typical of the early 1970 -- enacted by Reagan while governor of California. He derides Reagan's support for OSHA as "a full-fledged attack on private enterprise," insists that the switch to unleaded gasoline will "bury" the state's economy, and dreams up the unthinkable: "[California] is even considering a bill to outlaw smoking in all public places."
Worst of all, to Steffgen, is Regan's big-spending ways:
"His alleged fiscal responsibility is a carefully-assembled non-joke by highly skilled speech writers and public relations agents. They must have hired the writers from Gilligan's Island."
No, no. If that had happened, Reagan would have teamed up with the Globetrotters!
Besides his anti-Reagan books, Steffgen is best known for his service on Californai's White Citizens Council in the early 60s. With the WCC he protested the Rumford Act, a 1963 bill barring discrimination in housing. Later, the odious National Vanguard Press published Steffgen's book The Bondage of the Free which explains how the civil rights movement is the culmination of "the most diabolic betrayal in the nation's history."
(The National Vanguard site also peddles National Vanguard magazine, which features headlines like "Space Exploration: An Expression of the Aryan Soul" and "Albert Einstein: A Textbook Case of Jewish Media Manipulation.")
Race-baiting doesn't show up much in The Counterfeit Candidate, although Steffgen describes Reagan as the "onetime white hope for the salvation of the U.S. Constitution," which breaks new, crazy ground-- Reagan wasn't even white?
Steffgen also calls Reagan:
- "Franklin D. Roosevelt without the wheelchair"
- "a one-man iron lung who kept a liberal philosophy in California from perishing"
- "the greatest snowjob ever to pass before the electorate"
- "the champion" of "whatever it is that is bringing California to its knees"
- "a 'consiberal' weaving oz-like tales before an unsuspecting public into a fantasmagoria of dreams"
The closest Steffgen comes to wit is when he adds, "What [Reagan] may be in the eyes of a writer less restrained than I is anybody's guess."
This brings to mind one less-restrained author, who wrote:
"Kent Steffgen has earned his money acting as an escort for plump old ladies and spent most of his money to buy the services of plump young men."
That's from the pseudonymous "Deguello Report on the American Right Wing," a 1976 "expose" from within the white supremacist movement. According to Jeffry Kaplan's fascinating Encyclopedia of White Power, the Deguello Report's author attempted to discredit rivals by labeling them as socialist, Jewish or homosexual, a standard technique of the fringe right. (Today, we'd add "born in Kenya" to that list.)
While Steffgen is guilty of the same baseless namecalling found in the Deguello Report, I'll give him this much: he never calls Reagan a Jew, and he only hints at the homosexual with that "backdoor socialasm" crack and the occasional erotic metaphor:
"Everytime Reagan signed one of those drastic measures, he had a soothing jar of Vaseline on hand to rub down the victim; a special onitment. Up with the Muzak, down with the lights, on with the logic and apologies, so the victim always managed to walk away from it half-tranquilized. Reagan was running a giant massage parlor in Sacramento."
From a 1978 letter to Burbank voter Mrs. Buford S. Craig:
"Kent Steffgen-- (whoever he is) is an unmitigated liar."
From Reagan, A Life in Letters
Date: April 14, 1975
Discovered at: Retro Genie, Northampton, Massachusetts
Besides Reagan's brush with airport security, there are two glories to savor in this old People, both from a profile of Warren Beatty's penis.
First, this soulful sub-head:
"On one of his latest films, Warren kept trying to seduce the still photographer on the set. When she declined, Beatty had her fired--but only after humiliating her to tears by publicly zipping down her slacks on the set."
And that, dear reader, is the last honest anecdote ever to appear in a glossy magazine's celebrity profile.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.