What is the difference between 1982 and 2011? Besides 29 years, there is a great deal of difference. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 the country was in the grip of one of the worst recession since the great depression. There were food shortages, gas lines and the military was ready to go on strike. Some of you out there probably would like to argue that last point, because the military can’t go in strike. I am here to tell you than my family and I were in the military at that time and there was talk, serious talk about a strike. The malaise that had settled over the country was like a old, moldy, scratchy, wool quilt. The mood was a dank and depressed as the soul of a code pink activist in a district that elects a Tea Party candidate.
Then Ronald Magnus was elected. He cut taxes, he deregulated industries, he made it easier for small businesses to survive. Reagan’s main impact however was in how Americans saw themselves and their country. Gone were the gloom and doom, the constant meme of “we are not worthy”. Gone was the mantra “America is bad, we don’t deserve good things, we’re greedy, evil, colonialists” of the Jimma’ Carter Administration. Ronald Reagan gave us hope that America could achieve great things again. That we have been and could still be a force for good in the world. That America could be that shining city on a hill the founding fathers envisioned.
Because of his unflagging optimism businesses began to grow, profits began to rise and people began to believe in the power of the U.S. and it’s ability to lead the world economically and politically. Along with allies like Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Reagan held other totalitarian rulers feet to the proverbial fire, which eventually led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the Communist block. Yes there were patriots in places like Poland and East Germany but without the strength and vision of Ronald Reagan they would still be dying in Communist gulags.
Was Reagan perfect? Of course not, no one is. But he gave the country something the current president promised but has never delivered. Hope, real honest to goodness hope. Not some political slogan, or self aggrandizing blather, but an actual belief things could get better. We the people could by our own efforts make them better. We were the engine, we were the catalyst, we were the spark that would create new and better opportunities for ourselves and for people around the world.
So what’s the difference. The difference is between someone, with experience, who brought hope through empowerment and someone, with no discernible experience, who bought power through falsely promised hope. A difference between someone who does and someone who talks. Hopefully next time we vote we’ll be able to tell the difference.