Friday, November 04, 2005

Reagan 489, Carter 49

Twenty-five years ago today, Tuesday November 4, 1980, the Era of American Defeatism came to an end when Ronald Wilson Reagan won a landslide victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential Election. What followed were the largest economic boom in the nation's history, the peaceful destruction of the Soviet Union, freedom for 60 million Eastern Europeans living under the Communist boot, and democracy ascendant in the world.

As Mark Steyn said shortly after Reagan's funeral:
Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is footnotes.

Today's Investor's Business Daily discusses the bleak political and social landscape before the 1980 election:
According to conventional wisdom, there were all sorts of reasons why Reagan was unelectable in 1980. He was an actor. He was old. He was a warmonger in the age of detente who naively refused to believe that the Soviet Union was a permanent player on the world stage.

"Governor Reagan couldn't start a war," warned a Gerald Ford campaign commercial a few years earlier. "President Reagan could."

Twenty-five years ago, America was in retreat. Our then-commander-in-chief scolded us for our "inordinate fear of communism," gave speeches about a national malaise and told us where to set our thermostats.

Military actions became so rare they were micromanaged from the Oval Office. Like the Desert One rescue mission that went down in flames in the Iranian desert before ever reaching our hostages.

The secretary of state so abhorred the use of the military that he resigned in protest when we had the audacity to use our own forces to try and free our own people. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, we retaliated by ... boycotting the Olympics.

It was a time of 21% interest rates and the long-forgotten "misery index": inflation plus unemployment. It was also period when many concluded that the presidency was too big for any one man, that a committee might be better suited to the times.

Reagan changed all that instantly.

Never underestimate the power of ideas and strong leadership, as Natan Sharansky, and Lech Walesa can attest. People all over the world understand what happened on November 4, 1980 -- the Americans elected a great leader and made the world a better place for it.

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