“The line it is drawn, The curse it is cast, The slowest now, Will later be fast, As the present now, Will later be past, The order is rapidly fading, And the first one now will later be last, Cause the times they are a-changing” – Bob Dylan
The first time I was able to vote for a Presidential candidate was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ran against the incumbent Jimmy Carter. I voted to reelect the peanut farmer. Reagan though won in a landslide, capturing 51% of the popular vote and carrying 44 states.
In 1980 the United States was in the throes of a worsening economy marked by high unemployment, a low supply of and high prices for gasoline and inflation. It also was the very beginning of our ongoing conflicts in the middle east with the Iran hostage crisis. This was a very contentious election, fear vs. happiness, good vs. evil, strength vs. weakness, and freedom vs. communism. A battle for the control of the present and the future of America, a battle of right and might.
Reagan, the actor, got his start in “politics” as the President of the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors, where he worked to root out Communist in the television and film industry. He had been a lifelong Democrat, but changed his views and his party in 1962 becoming a conservative Republican. From 1967 to 1975, Reagan served as the Governor of California.
In 1964 Reagan gave a televised campaign speech for the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater known then as “A Time for Choosing” but now simply known as “The Speech”. In this speech written for him to read, remember he was an actor acting as a television spokesperson on behalf of Barry Goldwater, Reagan outlined the conservative values that would become the backbone of his successful presidential run sixteen years later. “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”
This speech had all the buzz words that would hit home with any red-blooded American in 1964, Moses, Christ, freedom, Nazis, Communism, Socialism, big government, and children just to name a few. It was less a speech about choice and hope than it was about fear, fear that we should protect ourselves at all cost, fear of the government, ours and others, and fear of those who don’t think, act or look like “we” do.
Goldwater lost, also in a landslide, to Lyndon Johnson, carrying only six states to Johnson’s 44 and 38% of the popular vote to Johnson’s 61%. The six states that Goldwater carried; Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and his home state of Arizona. What was Goldwater’s appeal to these five southern states? Perceived federal government interference in state segregation laws, remember this was 1963.
So, what is the point of all this history I am offering? I am going to refrain from drawing any conclusions. I just wanted to provide two parallels, two paths, two candidates that preyed on the fears and discontent of a segment of the American population way back when. The demographics of this country are very different today than they were in 1963 and 1980 but as we have seen, fear still sells no matter what year it is. Remember to vote on November 8th. Not voting isn’t a rebellion it’s a surrender.
“The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then get elected and prove it.” – P.J. O’Rourke