Saturday marks the 110th birthday of Ronald Wilson Reagan and a chance to look back on what made him one of the most popular chief executives and indeed the last true consensus president.
With America as divided now as any time since the 1960s, it’s almost unfathomable to think that Reagan won 49 of 50 states when he ran for re-election in 1984 and came within a few thousand votes of a clean sweep.
That was an Electoral College tally of 525 to 13, with only Minnesota and the District of Columbia going to former Vice President Walter Mondale, who happened to hail from the former.
So liberal bastions like New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Hawaii all went for Reagan.
His margin of victory nationwide was nearly 17 million votes in an election in which just over 92 million total votes were cast.
By any measure, it was a landslide.
Let’s all take a moment to marvel at Reagan’s 1984 Electoral College Map. Minnesota is loyal I will give it that. pic.twitter.com/RUM7wfGUQo
— Keiran Pedley (@keiranpedley) August 18, 2016
“President Reagan was able to win 49 states and win by a landslide in 1984 because (1) the US economy was booming after Jimmy Carter’s stagflation of the 70s, and (2) he had restored much of Americans’ confidence in themselves after such traumas as the Watergate scandal and the loss of the Vietnam War,” Reagan biographer and Heritage Foundation fellow Lee Edwards said in an email to The Western Journal.
Further bolstering Reagan’s creds as the last consensus president is the top-10 ranking given to him by noted historians in C-SPAN’s most recent survey.
What was it that made this native of Illinois turned Hollywood actor both so popular and so effective?
The historians surveyed by C-SPAN gave Reagan his highest marks for “public persuasion,” “vision/setting an agenda,” “international relations” and “crisis leadership” among the 10 criteria used to judge past presidents’ performances.
Some of those skills were on display in the Gipper’s first inaugural address in January 1981.
The reason the former economic downturn escaped the moniker of the latter is the leadership Reagan exercised.
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” he said in his first inaugural address.
“In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity,” the 40th president continued.
“Is it time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles, there will be no compromise.”
Reagan emphasized his confidence in the American people, recalling some of the nation’s great achievements in the past like its founding during the Revolutionary War; its commitment to liberty for all as exemplified by Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War leadership; and the sacrifices made in the cause of freedom on the battlefields of World War I, World War II and Korea.
“The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice” that the soldiers in those battles were called upon to make, he said.
“It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us,” Reagan continued.
“We have every right to dream heroic dreams,” he said. “And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.”
John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, attended that inaugural address, having just recently begun as a Capitol Hill staffer.
“I remember that moment like it was yesterday,” he said in a statement to The Western Journal.
“Reagan was not just new to the office, but new to the Washington, D.C. establishment, one that was perched to teach him a thing or two,” Heubusch recalled, describing the conventional thinking at the time among the D.C. set.
However, Heubusch said, “Less than one year later, he succeeded in passing bipartisan legislation that drove one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history.”
“Two years later, the American economy which had been in a shambles when Reagan took over, began to hum. He oversaw the longest peacetime expansion of the U.S. economy on record. Real GDP grew over one-third during Reagan’s presidency, an over $2 trillion increase.”
During Reagan’s time in office, over 18 million new jobs were created, according to CNN.
Beyond cutting taxes, Reagan also slashed regulations on businesses and negotiated favorable trade deals. In other words, he did pretty much the exact opposite of what the Obama-Biden administration did in 2009 during the Great Recession.
CNN reported that former President Barack Obama oversaw the worst economic recovery since World War II, and now his former vice president, Joe Biden, is proposing the same thing: increasing taxes and saddling businesses with Green New Deal-style regulations.
During Obama’s two terms, just 11.6 million jobs were created, according to FactCheck.org, though there were approximately 80 million more people living in the country.
Besides unleashing an economic boom, Reagan stood up strongly to Soviet communism and revived the American spirit.
“He only wanted to do a couple things as president of the United States: lower taxes, put people to work and end the Cold War. I think he did all three,” Reagan’s son Michael Reagan told The Western Journal in a 2019 interview.
“I think my father made people feel good about being an American,” he added. “He made people feel proud about being an American. That had left us during the Carter years, and my father brought that back.”
In 2018, I visited Berlin and was able to witness firsthand what the end of the Cold War meant to that country, typified by the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As a West Point cadet in 1988, I went through Checkpoint Charlie at the wall to East Berlin, which, at the time, was the capital of the Soviet satellite state of East Germany.
A little over a year later (and months after Reagan left office), the wall fell in November 1989. Portions of it can now only be found in museums.
— Randy DeSoto (@RandyDeSoto) June 30, 2018
In his farewell address in January 1989, Reagan observed, “We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.”
“My friends: We did it. We weren’t just marking time,” he said. “We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.”
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