Rea­gan re­fresher course on free­dom

After 50 years, ‘A Time for Choos­ing’ has re­turned

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Mon­ica Crow­ley

On Oct. 27, 1964 — 50 years ago to­day — a tall, hand­some man strode to a podium draped with red, white and blue bunt­ing. Per­haps only he — and the most savvy po­lit­i­cal ob­servers — knew it at the time, but the speaker was about to launch a trans­for­ma­tional po­lit­i­cal move­ment.

On that day, Ron­ald Rea­gan de­liv­ered a tele­vised speech in support of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Sen. Barry Gold­wa­ter. Although most folks ex­pected Gold­wa­ter to lose to Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son, Rea­gan knew that the nascent con­ser­va­tive move­ment would need a new and charis­matic spokesman to lead it in the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury.

Ti­tled “A Time for Choos­ing,” Rea­gan’s speech un­apolo­get­i­cally cham­pi­oned con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples and drew stark con­trasts with the big-gov­ern­ment left­ism of John­son and the Democrats. It set the stage for the elec­toral tri­umph of Richard Nixon, and later, for the con­ser­va­tive revo­lu­tion that brought Rea­gan to power in 1980.

Given our cur­rent cri­sis of lead­er­ship, it’s use­ful to re­view sev­eral key pas­sages of Rea­gan’s game-chang­ing speech. In an era in which a pres­i­dent “leads from be­hind,” Rea­gan’s ad­dress pro­vides a re­fresher course in Amer­i­can strength, ex­cep­tion­al­ism and moral clar­ity.

“This is the is­sue of this elec­tion,” Rea­gan said. “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 cap­i­tal can plan our lives for us bet­ter than we can plan them our­selves.”

He might as well be stand­ing be­fore us to­day, talk­ing about Pres­i­dent Obama, Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the far left, whose statist poli­cies now dic­tate ev­ery as­pect of our lives from health care to light bulbs.

“In this vote-har­vest­ing time,” Rea­gan con­tin­ued, “… they have voices that say … ‘The profit mo­tive has be­come out­moded. It must be re­placed by the in­cen­tives of the wel­fare state.’ Or, ‘Our tra­di­tional sys­tem of in­di­vid­ual free­dom is in­ca­pable of solv­ing the com­plex prob­lems of the 20th cen­tury.’”

“Se­na­tor [Wil­liam] Ful­bright,” Rea­gan in­toned, “… re­ferred to the pres­i­dent as ‘our moral teacher and our leader,’ and he says he is ‘hob­bled in his task by the re­stric­tions of power im­posed on him by this an­ti­quated [Con­sti­tu­tion].’ He must ‘be freed,’ so that he ‘can do for us’ what he knows ‘is best.’”

Sound fa­mil­iar? The left never tires of its dream of a Con­sti­tu­tion-free au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism.

Rea­gan also re­ferred to the left’s embrace of “‘the full power of cen­tral­ized gov­ern­ment’ — this was the very thing the Found­ing Fa­thers sought to min­i­mize. They knew that gov­ern­ments don’t con­trol things. A gov­ern­ment can’t con­trol the econ­omy with­out con­trol­ling peo­ple. And they know when a gov­ern­ment sets out to do that, it must use force and co­er­cion to achieve its pur­pose.”

Pre­cisely. Think In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice tar­get­ing, Oba­macare, crony so­cial­ism and by­pass­ing Congress.

Rea­gan warned of the real choice fac­ing vot­ers: “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 to man’s age-old dream, the ul­ti­mate in in­di­vid­ual free­dom con­sis­tent with law and or­der, or down to the ant heap of to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

Wel­come to Amer­ica, 2014. He could see it un­fold­ing:

“Now it doesn’t re­quire ex­pro­pri­a­tion or con­fis­ca­tion of pri­vate prop­erty or business to im­pose so­cial­ism on a peo­ple … . Some­where a per­ver­sion has taken place. Our nat­u­ral, un­alien­able rights are now con­sid­ered to be a dis­pen­sa­tion of gov­ern­ment, and free­dom has never been so frag­ile, so close to slip­ping from our grasp as it is at this mo­ment.”

He’d be hor­ri­fied at how far so­cial­ism has ad­vanced just in the past six years.

Rea­gan’s warn­ings about the Soviet threat ap­ply to­day to the threats from the Is­lamic State, an Iran chas­ing a nu­clear weapon, and newly ag­gres­sive Rus­sia and China:

“We’re at war with the most dan­ger­ous en­emy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars,” he said, “and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so do­ing lose this way of free­dom of ours, his­tory will record with the great­est as­ton­ish­ment that those who had the most to lose did the least to pre­vent its hap­pen­ing.”

Rea­gan was not big on ap­pease­ment or “lead­ing from be­hind.”

Nor was he a fan of per­mit­ting in­ter­nal de­cline: “And some­day when the time comes to de­liver the fi­nal ul­ti­ma­tum, our sur­ren­der will be vol­un­tary, be­cause by that time we will have been weak­ened from within spir­i­tu­ally, morally, and eco­nom­i­cally.”

He knew that if we were weak within, we would be weak abroad — and that would be a recipe for cat­a­clysm. So he fought with ev­ery fiber of his be­ing to re­store Amer­ica to her found­ing prin­ci­ples at home and su­per­power sta­tus in the world. And he did.

Yet 50 years after Rea­gan’s stir­ring call to ac­tion, the left has achieved much of its agenda, from so­cial­ized medicine to gut­ting the mil­i­tary, from the de­mo­niza­tion of suc­cess to for­eign re­trench­ment.

Now we are back to the fu­ture, fight­ing the same ur­gent bat­tle for Amer­ica. Rea­gan showed that we can win it, if we have the will.

Do we?

Mon­ica Crow­ley is on­line opin­ion ed­i­tor at The Wash­ing­ton Times.


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