To begin. You'd be forgiven, by me at least, for confusing one YAF (the foundation) with the other YAF (as in “YAFers”). ReactionLand is in fact a little world of its own, a big one posing purposely as small, as we're reminded daily in reporting on the phony “grassroots” Tea Party and the Koch brothers and contributions mailed to vacant and completely un-staffed offices in Arizona and to anonymous P.O. boxes. Not to mention all the dough solicited (and received) by individual spin-off fundraising outfits, so that my own elderly father's mail includes perhaps three appeals a day from sound-alikes, each with a variant on a name, theme, mission, a multiple choice mash-up of veteran, American, disabled, freedom, protect, defend, like that.
But I digress. As we flip together (quickly, please!) thorough the months and pages of the calendar, with photos of Ronnie on a horse, let's consider how we got to this place and time. Or let's skip the calendar, except to highlight the horrors. The “humor” of the Gipper on display, in the form of a whimsical “jackalope” mounted on the ranch house wall, Ronnie with his boot up after signing a big tax cut, the instruction to fly the flag on only Christian holidays (Jewish and other traditions apparently not patriotic enough), the full-color photos of the old B-movie actor and FBI snitch with his dogs, horses, pond, chain-saw, all of it adding up to a story–but of what, exactly? And how are the supporters of the YAF themselves anything but bored by a blurry shot of Reagan driving his red Jeep, dog in the back seat?
How, you ask? Why, friends and admirers of the power of the word, through the helpful interpretation of this awe and affection-inspiring scene in startling yet somehow reassuring prose, a juxtaposition of poetry and politics which appears in caption below it: “Ronald Reagan hauls material in his red Jeep, which is still at the Ranch. He wanted to be remembered as the President who made Americans believe in themselves and in our nation's greatness again.”
Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, Jean Hardisty, 304 pps., $20.00