By Felicia Cravens, Contributor, US Daily Review
Ronald Reagan’s presidency has long been used as a touchstone for conservatism. Candidates have structured ads around the images and statements of Reagan, touted his policies, and played upon even the most tangential of connections to the former president. So it’s no accident the Reagan legacy has been highly visible this year during the 2012 Republican primary season.
This political cycle is no exception. Current candidates have invoked Reagan just as easily, most notably Gingrich pitching his work with Reagan on the recovery. However bad things might be, perhaps they aren’t as stark and bleak on paper as they were in 1980 on the economic front, provided one uses Carter’s “misery index” of unemployment plus inflation. This is no credit to Obama, however; a combination of the Federal Reserve artificially keeping inflation low and a redefinition of items included in the price index may deserve more credit than anything.
Still, it’s instructional to think about Reagan’s campaign messages in his 1980 campaign for several reasons. The economic situation, in spite of games played with iffy numbers and cherry-picked statistics, shows little sign of recovery. The United States’ image has been tarnished abroad, and the country’s self-image has suffered. In spite of a campaign based on hope and change, the American public has been served a large, and largely unwelcome, dish of the latter, and has been all but deprived of the former.
Republicans naturally want to capitalize on this. After all, it’s easy to toss out clever phrases about Obama like “Welcome Back, Carter” and compare our present circumstances to those during Carter’s term. But if they are determined to find a New Reagan to lead the Republican campaign in 2012, perhaps they ought also to examine the Old Reagan; not just his policies once elected, but his campaign messages as well. Of course, campaigns are run completely differently from 1980 – technology and strategy have changed – but the voting public has as well. It’s worthwhile to examine those messages from an earlier, similarly-situated candidate, and see whether they hold up.
So without editorial comment, here are some of Reagan’s interesting campaign statements. Read through and watch, and see whether you are hearing comparable messages today, and if so, from whom.
From Reagan’s Campaign Announcement:
We must force the entire federal bureaucracy to live in the real world of reduced spending, streamlined function and accountability to the people it serves. We must review the function of the federal government to determine which of those are the proper province of levels of government closer to the people.
If you ever had any doubt of the government’s inability to provide for the needs of the people, just look at the utter fiasco we now call “the energy crisis.” Not one straight answer nor any realistic hope of relief has come from the present administration in almost three years of federal treatment of the problem.
In recent months leaders in our government have told us that, we, the people, have lost confidence in ourselves; that we must regain our spirit and our will to achieve our national goals. Well, it is true there is a lack of confidence, an unease with things the way they are. But the confidence we have lost is confidence in our government’s policies. Our unease can almost be called bewilderment at how our defense strength has deteriorated. The great productivity of our industry is now surpassed by virtually all the major nations who compete with us for world markets. And, our currency is no longer the stable measure of value it once was.
Videos from a Reagan-Bush debate
From a campaign speech:
I know, people have been telling me that Jimmy Carter has been doing his best. And that’s our problem.
The President lately has been saying that I am irresponsible. And you know, I’ll admit to that if he’ll confess he’s responsible.
Sure, it’s right that we should say we want, too, to do something about unemployment, and about inflation, about the value of our money and to get this country moving again. But I think even more important on a broader scale [is] in doing that, what we will have to do is to bring back to this country what is so evident here: Bring back the recognition that the people of this country can solve the problems, that we don’t have anything to be afraid of as long as we have the people of America.
[In] more recent years with the best intention, they have created a vast bureaucracy, or a bureaucratic structure-bureaus and departments and agencies-to try and solve all the problems and eliminate all the things of human misery that they can. They have forgotten that when you create a government bureaucracy, no matter how well intentioned it is, almost instantly its top priority becomes preservation of the bureaucracy.
From the nomination speech:
I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis to the next, eroding our national will and purpose. We have come together here because the American people deserve better from those to whom they entrust our nation’s highest offices, and we stand united in our resolve to do something about it.
“Trust me” government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs–in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact.
Our problems are both acute and chronic, yet all we hear from those in positions of leadership are the same tired proposals for more government tinkering, more meddling and more control — all of which led us to this state in the first place.
Can anyone look at the record of this administration and say, “Well done?” Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, “Keep up the good work?” Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, “Let’s have four more years of this?”
I will not accept the excuse that the federal government has grown so big and powerful that it is beyond the control of any president, any administration or Congress. We are going to put an end to the notion that the American taxpayer exists to fund the federal government. The federal government exists to serve the American people.
Felicia Cravens walked away from her accounting degree over a decade ago to become a stay-at-home mom. Since then, she has filled her “spare time” teaching drama in an after-school program and working in conservative politics. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society in 2009, serves as a frequent media contact, and trains and equips people new to the political process, on topics such as Convention 101 and Twitter Basics. She also serves as Vice-President of the organization that planned January’s Saddle Up Texas Straw Poll. Her passion for social, media in politics has led her to launch Dialect Social Media this spring, a consulting firm for candidates, and she can be found on Facebook and Google+, and on Twitter as @somethingfishie and at LinkedIn. She is a contributor at The Texas Conservative as well as a blogger in her own right at Something Fishie.