A Time for Choosing

Fifty-six years ago this week, Ronald Reagan endorsed the Republican senator Barry Goldwater for president of the United States, during his famous “A Time For Choosing” speech on October 27th, 1964. Although Goldwater did not win in that election, Reagan helped breathe new life into the Republican party for generations to come by winning over the American people with his ideas, and his optimism for the future of the country.

In that speech Reagan, outlined Goldwater’s vision for the nation and spoke of the divergent paths that the two presidential candidates intended to lead the country down. “If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth… 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,” Reagan said.

Reagan stressed that a vote for Goldwater would mean a return to limited government and free market principles that would lead to greater economic prosperity, a lower unemployment rate, and a higher standard of living.  It would include equal treatment for all Americans, instead of preferential treatment for some.  It meant respect for state sovereignty, the protection of individual liberty, religious freedom, and the preservation of the principles that our founding fathers outlined in the Constitution.  “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 the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man.”

By contrast, a vote for the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, called for a weakened economy, more regulations, inflation, a war on profit incentives, and the promotion of the welfare state.  It meant an acceptance of “The Great Society,” the expansion of a centralized government, and a ruling class of politicians and unelected bureaucrats, that would pick winners and losers, and dictate how its citizens should live their lives.  “The full power of centralized government -- this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize,” Reagan said.

Before the American people cast their ballots for the 1964 election, Reagan urged the voter to put aside their political affiliation, and instead encouraged them to look towards the future and consider which candidate’s policies would lead the country down a path of strength and innovation, peace and prosperity, versus a path of economic stagnation, destruction, ruin, and despair. “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 -- old-aged 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.”

Reagan warned us that a vote for Johnson meant sacrificing the philosophies that the Founders sought to protect; namely excessive government overreach, free enterprise, and the loss of our fundamental liberties in pursuit of a supposedly more “equitable and just” society. “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. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy,” Reagan said.

Here we are again, just days away from another presidential election in 2020, and the American people still find ourselves facing many of the same concerns, and challenges that Reagan warned us about fifty-six years ago.  Once again, the contrast between the two candidates could not be more clear.  One is a career politician (with mounting evidence that he improperly used his office as vice president to enrich his family), the other a businessman.  As President Donald Trump said at his RNC Speech, “This election will decide whether we will defend the American Way of Life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

Over the last three years President Trump has lowered taxes, reduced regulations, rebuilt our military, increased national defense spending, strengthened our border security, and delivered criminal justice reform. He helped broker peace agreements in the Middle East, eliminated the ISIS caliphate, and brought justice to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Qasem Soleimani. He moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and appointed originalist judges who will interpret the rule of law as it was written.  He has renegotiated unfair trade agreements, stood up to China, and restored our critical supply chains, so we never have to rely on foreign countries for essential medical supplies again.  He formed an unprecedented partnership between the federal government and the private sector to ramp up testing and the production of masks, gowns and ventilators, and he issued Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the delivery of vaccines and therapeutics to combat the coronavirus.

Joe Biden’s policies would be an economic catastrophe and would lead us down a path of socialism and government overreach.  As Trump said, “Joe Biden is not the savior of America's soul -- he is the destroyer of America's Jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American Greatness.” Biden wants higher taxes, socialized healthcare, open borders, and a weak military.  He wants to eliminate oil and natural gas, weatherize 4 million buildings and 2 million homes, and “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” He will grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico and will pack the Supreme Court with liberal judges. Biden has no problem shutting down the country again if the “medical experts” suggest it. “Joe Biden's plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender,” Trump said.

Joe Biden believes America is systemically racist, “Equality, equity, justice -- these ideas form the American creed. We have never lived up to it.” Trump, like Reagan, believes in preserving the principles that our Founders envisioned for this country.  He does not apologize for who we are, he embraces it.  Freedom is not something to run away from, it is something to run towards, and to cherish.  Trump understands this.

One of the great things about a democracy is that the vision for the future of this country will be up to the American people to decide.  As Reagan pointed out, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.  We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”  It is indeed a time for choosing.

Image: Presidency of Ukraine and Gage Skidmore

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