I have Reagan set up as a key word in my Google news feed. If a news item appears on the web with that proper name in it, Google News shows it to me. That means I see football scores for Ronald Reagan High School’s latest game, and items about highways, airports, and mountains named after the fortieth president. Republican candidates like to mention him, but the man himself is not in the news so often.
The past week has been an exception. On October 27, 1964, just about a week before the presidential election contest between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson, Reagan delivered a televised address to explain why voters should support Goldwater. Sometimes known simply as The Speech – he delivered variants of it many times – he called the version he delivered on October 27, A Time for Choosing. That title captured the choice he laid out before the country.
The Republicans lost the election, held less than a year after Kennedy’s murder in Dallas. Without a lot to recommend Johnson beyond his ambition for the office, analysts attributed the large number of votes in the Democrat’s column to the sense of grief the nation still felt over the loss of their president to an assassin. They needed the rumply continuity that Johnson offered, not the sharp edges Goldwater might have brought to the office.
Events in Dallas still hung over the country during that election season. Johnson’s special commission on the assassination of the president, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, published its report a month and a half before the 1964 election. It reminded people, however inaccurately, about details of the crime that occurred ten months before. I wonder how many people would have voted for Johnson, had they known about his motives for forming that commission and publishing that report.
That’s another question. The significance of Reagan’s speech does not rest in the results of a particular election, nor even in the historical turning point the country encountered in Dealey Plaza. The speech’s significance lies in the way Reagan addressed questions we still have in front of us fifty years later. Read the article below, by Lee Edwards. Watch the speech. Yes, it feels dated, but that only reminds you what television was like fifty years ago. Listen to Reagan’s warnings, and his arguments about what we have to do to save ourselves. He is talking about our choice between slavery or freedom, and his warnings about slavery are coming true.
We Need Another Great Communicator Like Reagan, by Lee Edwards