Older Dopers: How weird was it seeing Ronald Reagan become President?

I was pondering Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations, and was thinking, in the unlikely event he were actually elected, how very odd it would be to see this flamboyant businessman turned reality TV star sitting in the Oval Office, for real, actually going about the business of leading the country, giving the State of the Union, and so forth. It creates a rather large sense of cognitive dissonance. Governors Ventura and Schwarzenegger were surreal enough, and the presidency is something else entirely.

Which led me to think of Ronald Reagan. Though I knew of Reagan’s past as an actor, I am too young to primarily identify him as such. He was Governor of California before I was aware he existed, and to my mind he was just another politician.

So, those of you who may have seen *Bedtime for Bonzo *at your local cinema or watched Ronnie on *G.E. Theater *and Death Valley Days, what was it like when an actor, of all things, made it to the White House?

It was incredibly calming to know that Ronald Reagan would be president. He finally gave Americans back our confidence and we knew that all the impending disasters and problems caused by Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Johnson would be ending.

In fact, I even sold all my gold and silver, that I had owned since 1971, knowing that I would not be needing them once Reagan became president, and I bought more stocks and bonds. It was like getting another Eisenhower. Peace, and prosperity a coming at us finally after a terrible horrible inflation and wars 20 year span from 1962 to 1980.

It was bizarre and it felt like civilization was coming to an end.

It was incredibly weird. Reagan’s possible running for president was widely perceived as a joke in the 1960s. Mad magazine ran a parody ad (modeled on the Ronrico rum ads) saying Ron Reagan – wasn’t he the governor who wanted to be President?

It was also strange that someone once so highly visible in movies and television achieved first the California governor’s office and then the presidency. this sort of thing has become more common, but, at the time, I don’t think any other actor had gotten any post higher than Senator – and they were taking heat for that, too. television stations ran his old films – the Killers, King’s Row, and, of course, inevitably, Bedtime for Bonzo. the director of that film, Fred de Kordova, was at that time directing the Tonight Show, so inevitably Johnny Carson made a lot of jokes – even more than he would have, given the circumstances , since he was poking fun at his director at the same time.

As far as the politics go, I was not calmed. His views were much too far from my own, and his habit of misstating things was already starting to get known. It ultimately culminated in this:

Having a president whose statements didn’t coincide with reality didn’t make me feel good.

I predict this thread will be pretty similar to the last two posts, a lot of discussion about how Reagan is histories greatest monster/greatest hero, with little regard for the question in the OP: “did his past as an entertainer affect how people perceived Reagan”.

Anyhoo, I was too young to remember Reagans acting career, but he was pretty far removed from that career by the time he became President, especially when compared to more recent entertainers turned politicians, such as Al Franken or Arnold Swatzaneggar. Reagan’s last film was in 1964, after which he became governor of the US’s biggest state and then a fairly prominant GOP figure before winning the Presidency. So by the time he was President, I think even people who’d seen his movies thought of him as a politician first, an actor second.

ETA: “last two posts” being Susanaan and ratatosk, not Cal.

If you were too young in 1980, then you are too young to have longed for the peace and prosperity that we had not had since Eisenhower in the 1950’s.

In 1980, we had 20 years of constant strife, problems, inflation, wars, Vietnam, a breath away from a world wide nuclear war by Kennedy over Cuban, riots in all of our cities and all of our colleges, rampant crime, unemployment, government intrusion, and loss of respect around the world. Unless you are old enough to remember how good things were in the 1950’s, you wont understand how glad we all were to anticipate good times finally to come back with Reagan.

Oh, come on.

how about:

Someone was finally speaking truth to power.

Not very. He started out in politics by stumping for Goldwater’s campaign. He’d made a run or two at president before, and had been governor of California. People were very used to him as a political figure by the time he made his successful run.

The weird thing was that Americans had managed to elect one of the dimmest bulbs ever. I really thought they couldn’t do worse, but 2000 proved me wrong. I think Americans will elect anybody who makes enough noise if the press doesn’t tell them not to.

I think the the perceived weirdness of his having been an actor depended on how old you were. I had only known him as the Governor of California, so it didn’t seem that weird to me. I knew he had been an actor, but it was in an era that was ancient history to me. For those old enough to remember his acting career, it was kind of similar to Arnie and Jesse Ventura.

People tended to line up on their normal ideological sides as to how they felt about his acting career. For liberals, he was a sidekick to a chimp, and his election was absurd. For righties, he was a cowboy hero who they imbued with all the imaginary qualities being expressed by Susanann.

You cant compare Reagan with Franken, Swartzaneggar, they are not the same thing at all, apples and oranges, totally absolutely different. You may as well compare Reagan with the fishes in the sea.

Reagan solved problems.

(bolding mine)[Moderator Note]This is not a debate about whether or not Reagan was a good president. Please stick to the topic as described in the OP.[/Moderator Note]

Here’s the Mad parody Ad I referred to, on back cover of issue #131, December 1969:


Which problems?

I guess I should have expected this, but as the OP, I respectfully request this not be a thread about political views. Read the OP again for the question I’m interested in, and start your own thread if you want to debate whether he was a good prez or not.


Tree Pollution

My apologies. Query withdrawn.


While I certainly was appalled by Reagan’s election (and even more so by his presidency), at the time he was elected he was a serious political figure. It was a bizarre that was elected Governor of California – an actor, without much political experience, but then California had already elected George Murphy as a Senator. By 1980, Reagan was part of the political scene for over a dozen years and certainly had the experience as governor to keep him from being a joke.

Were his films being shown on TV in 1980? I would imagine that it would be easier to picture him as just a politician if his movies weren’t constantly being re run.

It wasn’t weird in any way. I just wish the media would have stopped carrying on about his acting. It’s not like he was a superstar instead of a washed up actor.