Dan Henninger, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote that those seeking to derail Donald Trump’s express train to the GOP nomination should give “The Speech.” Mr. Henninger opined that it was time for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio to deliver a rival to Nixon’s “Checkers speech,” John Kennedy’s speech on Catholicism, or Barack Obama’s 2008 speech on race. However, the gold standard for Mr. Henninger is Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing.”
His column prompted me to reread the transcript from over 50 years ago. Having done so, I now understand Mr. Henninger’s advice, but would add this caveat. Today, March 2016, is the time for all Americans to read Mr. Reagan’s speech as if he were giving it today. When Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, rich, poor, white, black or Hispanic, take the time to put Reagan’s words into today’s context, they will understand what a true leader is. They will also understand that much of what Reagan said in 1964 applies in 2016, only with more urgency.
Consider the issues that concerned Mr. Reagan in 1964 about America’s future:
Obviously, Mr. Reagan could be describing the America of 2016, not one from 50 years ago. In his speech, he went on to identify other problems familiar to today’s American citizens, such as:
Perhaps the most amazing parallel between the America Reagan spoke about in 1964 and today’s version lies in his comments about socialism. Consider that the 2016 version of the Democratic Party features as one of its two candidates an admitted and avowed socialist, one who not only doesn’t try to hide his socialist views, but in fact flaunts them. Ronald Reagan, in 1964, said:
Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, “If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States. I think that’s exactly what he would do…”
But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn’t the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin…”
Apparently, Americans have once again forgotten the lessons of history that every place it’s been tried — the Soviet Union, Communist China, etc. — socialism has utterly failed to deliver on its utopian promises. In today’s America, Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party no longer feel the need to hide the true nature of their failed policies, they proudly campaign on them.
However, Democrats in 2016 don’t have a lock on the refusal to confront the need to choose between tough solutions to real problems and fantasies. Republicans, unless they quickly change their mind, are about to choose a candidate who has promised them:
I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived in an America in which Ronald Reagan’s views were ultimately chosen by Americans. Admittedly, Reagan’s philosophy had to wait 16 years after his great speech to be implemented. I think our country and my fellow Americans are at a similar time for choosing. Unfortunately, we can’t wait another 16 years to return to Reagan’s way . Almost all of the problems he identified 50 years ago still exist, and have only worsened. As President Reagan prophetically said 50 years ago:
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves…
It’s time for the American people to choose —self-governance, or elite rule by the Socialists or by a strong man like Trump. In making this choice, it’s not a question of right vs. left, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s what Ronald Reagan forecast in 1964:
You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well, I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down; [up] man’s old, age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course…
For the sake of my children and my one-year-old grandson, Aidan, as well as the rest of my fellow citizens, I hope we choose up.