February 6, 2011 marks the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth. You have your choice of black tie or black armband to commemorate the event.
The impact made by Ronald Wilson Reagan upon America’s psyche cannot be overstated, although the role he played in world history often is. Credited with bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, that moribund state actually fell due to its own internal pressures and a mounting debt which crippled its economy. The path which Reagan set the US on, with drastically reduced tax revenue and dramatically increased deficit spending, threatens to do the same for us, as successive Republican administrations have followed in his economic footsteps.
There is even a term for this impact and Reagan’s ongoing financial legacy—“Reaganomics”—a political portmanteau describing the theories of “supply side” and “trickle down” economic principles which he espoused, the idea that so long as the rich get theirs, everybody else benefits … eventually. Somewhere. Somehow. Someday.
Reagan also revitalized conservatism, putting an avuncular face on what one biographer has described as “friendly fascism.” Discredited first by the economic collapse of the Great Depression, then by its obstinate opposition to Civil Rights legislation and the Great Society, and finally by the scandalous debacle of Nixon’s Watergate, the Republican Party and conservatism generally were at a low ebb when Reagan won the 1980 election.
But the self-focused, avaricious “Me” decade of the 1980s had only just begun, and as it drew to a close eight years later, Reagan’s vice president George H. W. Bush was handily elected his successor, borne to the Oval Office on a tide of optimism from the old, newly and wannabe rich, who cast their ballots not for Bush, but for what they hoped would essentially be a third term of Reagan.
It was a good time to be rich in America, and a bad time to be poor. Reagan cut all tax rates, but taxes on the highest income bracket were slashed from 70% to 28%, while the administration saw a 53% increase in military spending, and a 60% cut in social services and low income assistance programs.
The burgeoning discrepancy between rich and poor was exacerbated by these changes, and continues to this day. Currently the top 10% of the population controls 80% of the wealth of the country, while the bottom 90% holds 73% of all debt. The closing of mental health institutions and defunding of other social safety net programs sent a flood of homeless onto the nation’s city streets. The number of Americans living below the poverty level increased by two and half million.
This dramatic destiny didn’t seem remotely likely when Reagan was born at 4:16 AM CST on 6 February 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. His father Jack was a salesman, mother Nelle a homemaker, and the family lived above a storefront in a small apartment where Reagan was born: a more unprepossessing start can hardly be imagined.
Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birth chart shows a chameleon-like ability to adapt to changing circumstance, a facility with language, and an optimistic, infectious outlook, and stresses the importance of a life partner in achieving his greatest ambitions. The Reagans moved often in his youth, his father constantly in search of a better life for his family, and living quarters were often found above commercial space, as cheaper and more affordable. This circumstance caused Reagan to quip, upon moving into the upstairs Executive Residence in the White House, that he was “living above the store again,” just one example of the self-deprecating, almost Rockwellian humor which so endeared him to a segment of the American populace.
The Sun at 16 Aquarius is exactly conjunct a Pulsar, also conjunct one Black Hole at 17 Aquarius and exactly squared another at 16 Taurus. The Black Hole contacts provide an ease of adaptability, a power to attract others and pull them into his orbit almost effortlessly, for good or ill, and the ability to conform to circumstance and appear to be all things to all people, tailoring his approach to his audience. Black Hole Sun can be the puppet master or the puppet; appearance is the thing, and substance may or may not lie behind it, but it conveys the ability to convincingly play a part, whether that part is self-scripted or written by others.
The Sun-Pulsar combination indicates a natural bent toward the media in some form, and a gift for disseminating information or opinions to others in ways they can connect with and understand. This Sun/Pulsar conjunction is reflected in his early career path, in radio and film. After graduation from Eureka College, Reagan moved to Iowa, where he began a career in radio, first as a football announcer for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, followed by gigs with stations in Davenport and Des Moines, where he worked as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
While traveling with the Cubs in California in 1937, Reagan’s life took a literally dramatic turn when he filmed a screen test that led to a seven-year acting contract with Warner Brothers studios. A promising acting career was cut short by service in the US Army during World War II, when Reagan was assigned to the 1st Motion Picture Unit of the Public Relations office. Continuing the media-oriented thrust of Sun/Pulsar, his unit produced more than 400 training films before he was released from active service in December 1945,
But the Black Hole’s tendency to shake things up and change direction was about to come into play, as Reagan gradually shifted toward politics, in one form or another. The Sun is also squared to natal Jupiter at 13 Scorpio in the Tenth House, which is itself conjoined asteroid California at 11 Scorpio and the South Node at 14 Scorpio. Politics (Jupiter) comes naturally to Reagan as a career (Tenth House) choice, as something that feels familiar or comfortable (the South Node), like a hand slipping into a well-worn glove, and is a core element (Sun) of his being.
There is a larger-than-life feel to this placement, and life philosophy or belief system plays a huge part in how the native sees himself, a central theme of his life. Politics played a role early on, with Reagan having been elected student body president at Eureka College. In 1947 it reared its head again, when Reagan was elected president of SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, following this with additional one-year terms through 1952, and again in 1959. Both “politics lite” ventures were mere precursors to the main thrust of political activity from the 1960s onward, but showed his propensity to leadership and the knack of getting others to support him (with the Sun further trine a success-oriented Quasar at 14 Libra).
Jupiter also exactly opposes the natal Moon at 13 Taurus, suggesting that his philosophic outlook and belief system depended much on his mother’s (Moon) input, something Reagan has acknowledged in his autobiography, where he credits her with being a formative influence on how he views the world. This also creates a strongly emotional component to his philosophy, a feel-good, rosy, “ignore the defects and look on the bright side” approach that others are drawn to because it feels uplifting, whatever the reality it disguises, and helps to engage the public (Moon) in his political trajectory (Jupiter).
Asteroid California here is significant also, showing the Golden State as the true land of opportunity (Jupiter) for Reagan, the place where he could achieve his greatest ambitions, effectively expand (Jupiter) his options, make the best of what life offered, as well as signaling the venue for the start of his national political (Jupiter) career (Tenth House). By the mid-‘50s movie roles had started to dry up for Reagan, but he moved into television work, hosting the “General Electric True Theater” series from 1954-62, and “Death Valley Days” from 1964-65.
Originally a liberal Democrat and a firm supporter of FDR, after a brush with McCarthyism during his SAG presidency, Reagan began endorsing the conservative candidacies of Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956, and Nixon in 1960, while formally remaining a Democrat. During his time with GE Theater he was strongly influenced along pro-business conservative lines by senior GE executive Lemuel Boulware. In 1962 he took the plunge and switched Parties, stating at the time, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The Party left me.”
In a moment eerily reminiscent of Barack Obama’s rise to fame, it was Reagan’s speech endorsing the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964 which gave him national political prominence. California Republicans, impressed by his charisma, nominated him as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 1966. He ran on a platform of sending “the welfare bums back to work” and cleaning up “the mess at Berkeley,” where incipient protests of the expanding Vietnam War had begun to ruffle conservative feathers. He handily defeated two-term incumbent Edmund “Pat” Brown [ed. note, father of current governor Gerry Brown] by 57%-42%.
In his first term as California’s governor, Reagan froze government hiring, but also approved several tax increases to attempt to balance the budget. Shortly after taking office, he signed the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” which legalized abortion in California under certain circumstances involving the well-being of the mother. It was a decision he later regretted, stating that it was his inexperience in the job that led him to sign the bill. He became a firm opponent of abortion rights.
In May 1969 Reagan sent the California Highway Patrol onto the campus of UC Berkeley to disrupt student anti-war protests in an incident that became known as “Bloody Thursday.” He followed this with a two-week occupation of the city by state National Guard troops to quell unrest. He foiled a recall motion in 1968 and was re-elected to a second term in 1970 over Democrat Jesse Unruh, 52%-45%.
Mercury at 21 Capricorn conjoins Uranus at 26 Capricorn and a Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, and opposes Neptune at 19 Cancer retrograde, as well as exactly squaring the 21 Libra MC. Mercury in Capricorn can denote a serious thinker with conservative leanings, while the Uranus conjunction urges a more progressive approach. The Black Hole suggests a vacillation or alternation between the two, something in evidence with Reagan’s more liberal outlook early on, supplanted by staunch conservatism as he aged.
Mercury/Uranus can also be abrupt, but uses humor to disarm, understanding the force of laughter to dispel suspicion, erode anger, and create common ground or good will. Black Hole Mercury is also a persuasive, compelling speaker, able to convince others of the rightness of his opinions, whatever their factual foundation. With Mercury’s exact square to the MC, it is his power to communicate that propels his career and place in the world (both Tenth House/MC matters).
From the earliest beginnings, where it was literally his voice (Mercury) that opened a radio/entertainment career, right through the Hollywood years and the single speech (also Mercury) that launched his political career, it has been Reagan’s Mercury that has been the guiding force of his life and destiny. Not for nothing was he known as “the Great Communicator,” although “the Great Deceiver” might have been a more apt appellation.
For it is Neptune in opposition that is the key to Mercury’s functioning in this chart. Poetic and gifted with a pleasing turn of phrase, Mercury/Neptune is a born salesman, a BS artist, able to dress up mutton as lamb without effort. Distraction and deception come naturally to this combination, as well as a facility for putting the best face forward, tailoring an argument to serve one’s ends, and leading others by the nose through a haze of feel-good emotion, glossing over unpleasant or inconvenient facts and causing people to draw conclusions based not on evidence, but on a romantic, idealized image of a utopia, past or future, that can be easily reclaimed or created, if only the listener will heed the siren’s call. With asteroid Washingtonia, representing the nation’s capital, tightly conjunct Mercury and squared the MC from 22 Capricorn, we see the most probable venue for Reagan’s linguistic talents.
In 1968 Reagan joined a “Stop Nixon” movement (although he had endorsed Nixon’s candidacy in 1960), hoping to be elected a compromise nominee for president when Nixon and his leading opponent, Nelson Rockefeller, split the vote between them. The bid failed, but it gave Reagan a taste for presidential politics. He chose not to run for a third term as California’s governor in 1974, preferring to mount an insurgency in 1976 against sitting Republican President Gerald Ford, who had succeeded to the office after Nixon’s ignominious resignation. Reagan represented the discredited conservative wing of the Party, Ford a more moderate option, and the competition came down to a virtual photo finish at the convention, with Ford passing Reagan by a mere 117 delegates.
Reagan returned to the stump in 1980, challenging Democrat Jimmy Carter for the presidency, in a campaign played out during a severe economic downturn and a period of national embarrassment, as the Carter government was embroiled in the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Reagan’s mantra of lower taxes, less government, states’ rights and strong national defense clicked with voters frustrated by Carter’s ineffectual leadership style, and Reagan won 44 states with a national vote of 50%-41%. In his inaugural address on January 20, 1981, just days before his seventieth birthday, Reagan intoned, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”
The Reagan Revolution had been born, but it was almost over before it started, when barely two months later John Hinckley Jr shot the new chief executive outside the Washington Hilton, missing the heart by just an inch and piercing the lung, which collapsed. As it was, the situation was touch-and-go for awhile, with Reagan coming much closer to death than was acknowledged at the time.
When John Hinckley Jr attempted to assassinate Reagan on 30 March 1981, asteroid Hinkle (#18948, for Hinckley) was at 5 Virgo, conjunct Reagan’s natal Ixion (murder) at 6 Virgo, and trine his Mars (attacks) at 3 Capricorn. The transit Sun and Mars were conjunct at 10 and 9 Aries, atop the 10 Aries Quasar (physical manifestation, notoriety, spotlighted event) and opposed transit Jupiter (politician) at 4 Libra conjunct Saturn (president, death) at 6 Libra.
Asteroid Hinkle in Reagan’s birth chart falls at 1 Aries, in square to natal Mars. Asteroid Johnny (#3252, for John) at 27 Cancer opposes the nation’s Pluto (death, destruction) at 27 Capricorn and Reagan’s natal Uranus (shooting) at 26 Capricorn. Transit Johnny at 27 Virgo is forming an exact Grand Cross with the natal Ascendant/Descendant axis and transit asteroid Requiem (the funeral mass for the dead) at 27 Pisces, conjunct Reagan’s natal Eris (stress, strife) at 25 Pisces. Transit Chiron (wounding) at 15 Taurus is conjunct the natal Moon (the physical body, the lungs) at 13 Taurus, opposed natal Jupiter (politics, good luck) at 13 Scorpio and exactly opposed transit Ixion (murder) at 15 Scorpio, while squared the natal Sun at 16 Aquarius.
In the aftermath of the shooting, once again the famed Reagan humor turned near disaster into comedy, as he joked to his doctors in the operating room, “I hope you’re all Republicans!” and quipped to Nancy when she visited, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Reagan’s approval rating shot up to 73%, and he himself expressed the belief that he had been spared by God to fulfill a greater purpose.
Apparently, God disapproves of unions and taxes, for among Reagan’s first acts upon returning to work was to bust the Air Traffic Controller’s Union and severely cut tax revenues. The August 1981 PATCO strike for better working conditions and a shorter work week was immediately quelled by Reagan, who invoked a 1947 Taft-Hartley provision banning strikes among government workers, and demanded their return to work within 48 hours, or they would face dismissal. Only 10% of the 13,000 employees complied, and Reagan fired the remaining 11,345 workers.
The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 remains controversial to this day, with supporters pointing to improved economic conditions which emerged in its wake, and detractors citing the massive growth in deficits, foreign borrowing and the national debt. Further tax legislation in 1986 completed the drop in the highest tax bracket from 70% pre-Reagan to 28% post-Reagan, while raising the bottom tax bracket to 15% from 11%. Social programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and federal education funding were slashed, and the administration sought to aggressively reduce the numbers of claimants on the Social Security disability rolls, though the “entitlement” programs themselves were largely protected due to staunch Democratic congressional refusal to allow cuts.
In sharp contrast, defense spending exploded, with Reagan ordering a massive build-up in military preparedness, including the revival of the B-1 bomber and the controversial “Star Wars” space-based missile defense system, a boondoggle which plagues the US to this day. The Carteresque policy of detente with the Soviets was discarded in favor of hard-line rhetoric, with Reagan denouncing the USSR as “an evil empire” which would shortly be left “on the ash-heap of history.”