Yesterday, I made note of MSNBC star Rachel Maddow’s brilliant analysis of the Republican Party’s obsession with obliterating abortion rights at all costs. Maddow was equally skillful at analyzing the demented decisions that brought us to this week’s Amtrak disaster in Pennsylvania:

Maddow was matched in this regard by Thom Hartmann, who noted that the degeneration of American infrastructure began in the years following President Ronald Reagan’s election. As Hartmann points out, government investment in infrastructure used to be something that both Democratic and Republican presidents believed in, but once Bonzo’s former costar ambled into the White House, the “government sucks!” ethos took over, and our infrastructure went to seed.

Looking back, it’s clear that our country derailed on November 4, 1980—the dark night of Reagan’s election. Our respect for America’s best virtues—compassion, tolerance, civility, caring—was thrown to the ground. Thirty-five years later, the United States is lying in a crumpled heap, twisted beyond recognition by a crash caused by the excess speed of right-wing ideology.

We all have an obligation to explain to our children and grandchildren how he got here–why our country doesn’t live up to its ideals, why our country isn’t as great as it should be, why lies are embraced as truth, why vice is marketed as virtue. Why did this happen? It’s because we allowed the infrastructure of American democracy to be neglected by the political right.

Not all of us, of course. Never forget that about forty percent of the voting population said no to Reagan’s perfidy in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Forty percent of the voting population had a conscience. Forty percent of the voting population gave a damn.

What about the rest of us? Why did we buy what Reagan sold? Why did we allow ourselves to be seduced?

It’s hilarious to see Fox’s Bill O’Reilly blame hip-hop for the decline of America. I agree with O’Reilly that our country is in decline, but not for any of the reasons he cites. Iggy Azalea didn’t bring the United States to its knees. I can think of another Australian who did, the one O’Reilly works for, the one who shared Reagan’s dark, dank ideological vision. Because of the evil of right-wing ideology, today we live in a nation wracked by income inequality, rampant sexism and racism, unchecked pollution and a constant state of hopelessness.

They say positive train control could have stopped the Pennsylvania train disaster. We need some positive train control for the high-speed rail of our democracy–a Constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, an electorate that has the same wisdom demonstrated by those who saw right through the Gipper’s garbage, and media entities that inform rather than entertain the public. Can we install that positive train control? Or is our democracy destined to crash once again?

NEXT: Reagan’s sick legacy on race.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.