Today is Ronald Reagan’s 102nd birthday, and the usual observances are under way at good places everywhere. I know that since November I and many others have drawn our attention to Reagan’s 1977 CPAC speech on “A New Republican Party,” which holds up fairly well in the current circumstances. But it is also worth having a look at the article Reagan wrote in the December 1, 1964 issue of National Review—the first issue after the Goldwater wipeout. Much of it is applicable to the current scene, and also holds up well. A few excerpts (I’ve underlined a couple of highlights especially applicable to now):
By now a new cliché has been added to the time-worn lit, but I know of no other way of comment on the election than to open with the by now familiar — “Well, it’s over and we lost.”
Yes, we did; we lost a battle in the continuing war for freedom, but our position is not untenable. . .
Are reinforcements available? The answer is an unhesitating — “Yes!” They are to be found in the millions of so-called Republican defectors — those people who didn’t really want LBJ, but who were scared of what they thought we represented. Read that sentence very carefully because in my opinion it tells the story. All of the landslide majority did not vote against the conservative philosophy; they voted against a false image our Liberal opponents successfully mounted. Indeed it was a double false image. Not only did they portray us as advancing a kind of radical departure from the status quo, but they took for themselves a costume of comfortable conservatism. Read again their campaign fiction and you will find their normal flamboyant Liberalism hidden under the protective coloration of “the great society,” or as Hubert Horatio Humphrey (who can’t ask what time it is without conducting a filibuster) put it: “We don’t want a planned society — we want society planning.”
Unfortunately, human nature resists change and goes over backward to avoid radical change. It’s a head shaker, I know, but the whole Liberal apparatus which can be quoted ad infinitum on “the wave of the future, the need for new approaches to old problems, adopt new rules for complex new problems, forget the Constitution,” was able to campaign in a last-year’s model, singing, “The old songs — the old songs are good enough for me.”
A couple of obvious comments: Indeed, there were probably enough voters who didn’t really want Obama but who bought the Democratic attack (and were repelled by GOP self-inflicted wounds like Todd Akin) to have made the difference. And Reagan’s line about liberals wanting to “forget the Constitution” has been made explicit in recent weeks, as noted before, by Prof. Seidman.