“Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the store than it was four years ago?” - Ronald Reagan (days before crushing Carter in the 1980 Presidential Election)
Today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 101st Birthday. While the greatest President we’ve ever had may be long gone, his name continues to invoke pride or fury, depending upon which side of the political aisle your views tend to fall. The fact that those who oppose even the mention of Reagan’s name are usually the ones with whom I most impetuously disagree has no bearing whatsoever on the selfish entertainment I will draw from writing this piece.
Reagan’s name has been tossed about a lot lately, mostly out of the Newt Gingrich camp. Many have claimed that Newt is simply trying to ride the coattails of a man he admired. Obama will no doubt insinuate that Newt’s obsessed with Reagan as the campaign continues, but when compared to Obama’s obsessions, I’ll forgive it. Beyond the proven relationship Reagan shared with one of the candidates in this race, there are many similarities between the election of 1980 and the one in which we currently find ourselves mired.
The backdrop of the 1980 Presidential Election was eerily similar to the 2012 Election. The country was a mess in 1980 and the overwhelming desire among Americans was for change. So much of the uncertainty we feel today is simply a repeat of the emotions we battled in 1980. The names may have changed, and the issues may have shifted locales, but fear has led us once again to the breaking point. We are staring down the barrel of catastrophic failure right now, just as we were in 1980. The fear we have is not of government failure. It’s not of economic failure although both are at the top of the list. The fear that we collectively battle is the fear of complacency. Every man who has ever been defeated knows that there is a certain tipping point when victory is assured to the opposition. There’s that breaking point when momentum is just another arrow in the quiver of your opponent. We fear as a country that we are dangling over the chasm of such a failure. We fear that the burdens created by those we elect may eventually become too much to bear. If our friends and neighbors give up, our own defenses are useless and we will eventually be forced to give up too. We’re Americans and we do not give up until the fight has literally been beaten out of us, but many are starting to feel like that’s exactly what’s happened.
In January and February of 1980, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George H W Bush was ahead in the polls. He was running against former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Bush had defeated Reagan summarily in the Iowa Caucus, and went on to do the same in 5 additional states. That’s kind of where we stand today. Romney has won several of the initial primaries but I have yet to find anyone who is firmly anchored in the Mitt Romney camp. There seems to be a general feeling, among conservatives, that we’ll vote for him if he’s the nominee but we kind of hope an alternative is presented soon.
At the conclusion of the 1980 Primary Season, 58% of all Americans disapproved of Carter’s Presidential Record. While blind loyalty, ignorance, and heavily manipulated dissemination of statistics has yet to reveal Obama’s true approval rating, the demand for change seems to be equal to or greater than it was in 1980. Carter continued to run on a platform of “peacemaking.” He touted himself as a great negotiator for peace even while 52 Americans remained classified as hostages in our own embassy in Iran. This arrogance did not sit well with voting public. Sound familiar? Obama has done a good job at securing a few military victories he can claim during the campaign. I’ll give him that. No matter what anyone says, he got Osama bin Laden and that was huge. He’s freed some hostages in Somalia using tactical force and I’m sure we will be led to believe that Barackuda Obamalicious was right there in the thick of the fire-fight by the time the election gets here in November. His victories, however, fall short when compared to the overall defense needs of the United States. He’s like the guy at the gym who only works the “glory muscles.” (Obviously, this is a metaphor….Obama has the musculature of a 14 year old anorexia combatant.) It’s great to have nice arms, chest, and abs but what happens when someone punches you in the face?
Reagan promised an end to what he referred to as “Trust Me Government.” Once his campaign began picking up steam and he was in a position to do so, he distanced himself from the typical campaign and began to push his idea of Supply-Side Economics. Supply side economics basically means that government gets the heck out of the way and lets America produce (supply) goods and services to inject into their own economy. Such talk would make Barack Hussein Obama’s liberal heart stop, but it’s exactly what we need right now. We need a President who is willing to look at government like he would look at his own house. When times are tough, we get rid of things. Yes, it might suck to “go without cable” for a few months. Our friends might make fun of us for still using an old cell-phone and for the faded appearance of our clothing, but dammit we’ll survive. Barack Obama simply doesn’t see the world that way. To him, and to those that support his misguided ideology, the United States Government is simply a tool for them to use. They do not personally invest in the actions taken by the government they lead. Our money is his to “try things” with. Our military is his to “reform.” Our history is his to decimate. Reagan spent most of his first several months in office tearing down government and getting rid of waste and irrelevance. Obama promises more government involvement and rule. Carter was quick to criticize Reagan’s economic plans but offered no response of his own. Obama swears his economic positions are “what the American people want” yet he fails to address the concerns we have. He condemns any GOP economic plan that strays from liberal orthodoxy, yet he has overseen a Congress that has failed to submit a budget in three years. He’s invested billions of OUR dollars into conclusive failure and he has promised more of the same.
In late October of 1980, Reagan and Carter faced off in a live debate. There had been several debates prior, but Carter refused to participate unless the event was tailored to his campaign needs. He got his wish, but on October 28, 1980, his arrogance and sense of entitlement betrayed him. Reagan stood by and absorbed Carter’s nonsense as the incumbent President continued to insult the Duke. Reagan smiled and chuckled in a down-home, approachable manner similar to Andy Griffith. There was a charm and a reassurance in his tone that drew people to his side. In his closing remarks, Reagan turned to the camera and asked America “are you better off today than you were four years ago?” The question erased the small lead Jimmy Carter held just days prior to the election and resulted in the most lopsided presidential election in recent history. So what do you think America? It’s 2012…..are you better off than you were in 2008? Has your life improved dramatically as was promised during Barack Obama’s last campaign? Do you feel that America has a better standing in the world than we did when Barack Hussein Obama took office? Do you want more government involvement in your life?
Reagan delivered so much more to this country than just an improved economy, and a strengthened global reputation. Under Reagan’s watch, we pulled ourselves out of the clutches of failure. We didn’t depend on government to do it for us. We didn’t overanalyze manipulated numbers and suckle at the teat of social media for our opinions and needs. We simply went out there and got the job done because we had a government willing to let us fix our own problems. We do not have that now. What we have now is a government willing to destroy all of us as long as we can’t pin the blame on them. We deserve better. We deserve change.
As always, thanks for playing!
J. Robert Giles