How Matt Gaetz Sex Scandals Lead Back to Reagan's Long Con

It's killing Americans & paralyzing our politics


There’s a clear nexus between Matt Gaetz (and, apparently, a few other Republican politicians) spending his $174,000 a year on sex…and Ron DeSantis blowing up businesses in his state. And that nexus isn’t just Florida.

Having been deprived of a decent vacation for more than a year, a lot of Americans are thinking about taking a cruise. The only problem, as we learned back in March of last year, is that Covid can rip through a cruise ship faster than Donald Trump heading for the changing room at a Miss Teen USA contest.

Thus, it had to cause some despair among travel agents and marketers in the cruise industry when Florida governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning companies from requiring a certificate of vaccination to get on board.

Why, Americans wondered, would any elected politician do something so patently stupid and treacherously deadly? And why would so many Republicans now say that they knew what was going on with Gaetz but didn’t say or do anything before?

The answers go back to Ronald Reagan’s long con, combined with Donald Trump‘s lifelong hate for anything that resembles actual work, and was amplified by the overall Republican proclivity for authoritarianism.

Reagan’s long con had two parts: arguing that government was “the problem” and therefore we should always turn to the “free market” and billionaires’ charity to meet our needs, and a brilliant branding strategy that merged the Republican Party with Christianity, NASCAR and the NRA.

When Covid hit, Republicans, conditioned by 40 years of Reaganism, were more than willing to accept Donald Trump‘s notion that the federal government using its powers to do anything other than forcing mostly Hispanic and Black workers back into meat-packing plants would be a mistake. 

It’s also why Republican politicians are actually proud of the fact that in the 4 years of the Trump administration the only legislation they took seriously was a $2 trillion taxpayer-funded giveaway to billionaires. Anything else would mean that government would have to do something, and we can’t have that.

Not only did they not produce any consequential legislation in the four years they controlled government, but they’ve offered nothing by way of ideas, proposals or legislation in the first few months of the Biden administration.

And if you’re paid six-figures to do nothing, why not enjoy wine, women and song? Cue Matt Gaetz.

Trump’s rejection of masks as unmasculine fits right in with the Reagan cowboy schtick that was part of the 1980 rebranding effort. This bizarre and toxic masculinity is so deeply embedded in the GOP that Connecticut-born multimillionaire George W. Bush, who’s afraid of horses, had to buy a pig farm in Texas and move out of his fancy gated neighborhood to run for president from his newly-outfitted “ranch“ in Crawford, Texas. (Bush is now back in the gated neighborhood, no doubt to his own great relief.)

Mostly, though, Trump just hates to work. It’s why he played golf about a third of the days he was in the White House, couldn’t be bothered to attend national security briefings, and had no interest in trying to save the lives of a half-million Americans. Reaganism just provided the excuse.

Which brings us to DeSantis and his fellow criminally-negligent-homicide Republican governors.

The authoritarian streak that runs deep in the GOP requires leadership from the top down. There’s a lot of truth to the old joke that “Democrats fall in love, but Republicans fall in line.”

So when Trump, exalted to the level of a demigod by Fox News, rejected masks and social distancing and anything else that might have slowed down the deaths of American citizens, Republican governors had no choice but to follow suit.

After all, What Would Saint Ronnie Do?

Thus, we saw South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem invite a half-million bikers to her state in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, leading to hundreds of thousands of new cases of Covid spreading across America, with death trailing in their wake. 

They brought a spectacle, like Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick saying that people over 70 should just be willing to die to keep the economy open. 

And now we have Florida Governor Ron DeSantis forbidding private businesses from asserting the vaccine equivalent of “No shoes, no shirt, no service.“

Now even the Republican legislators in Florida are turning down a half-billion federal dollars so they can cut healthcare to low-income Floridians.

Trailing all this is the particularly sad and poignant spectacle of white evangelicals, people who believe they’re pursuing compassion and love, having the highest rate of vaccine refusal in America. The GOP set them up like lambs to the slaughter.

Trump and the GOP took their simplistic beliefs and exploited them for financial and political gain, and the result is tragedy after tragedy as Covid rips through families across America.

Trump didn’t believe in governing any more than Reagan did: both believed in performing. Which was also Gaetz’s specialty, preening on Fox News about the latest manufactured outrage of the day.

Trump and his children took in hundreds of millions of dollars, from his inaugural to his campaigns to the kickbacks from his corrupt cronies, while Gaetz, born to millions, used his perch of power and place to hustle sex (something Trump had made a career of when younger).

But neither could have pulled it off had Reagan not set up the long con that today is killing Americans and paralyzing our politics.


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