RNC Taps Into Reagan's 'Happy Warrior' Spirit That Led to 1984 Landslide


It’s perhaps difficult to believe in today’s political world, but then-President Ronald Reagan won his 1984 re-election campaign in a 49-to-one state landslide.

The only one he lost was was Minnesota, home to his Democratic opponent, Walter Mondale. The former vice president and senator carried the North Star State by just 3,761 votes, less than one half of 1 percentage point.

Reagan, running on a theme of “It’s morning again in America,” was seen as a “happy warrior” in the cause of conservatism.

He earned the moniker “The Great Communicator,” which he accepted in a sort of aw-shucks kind of way.

In his farewell address in January 1989, Reagan said: “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries.”

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Reagan’s love for and belief in country, despite its shortcomings, resonated with Americans across party lines. That is the reason he was able to handily win in Democrat-dominated California, becoming a successful two-term governor, and then a two-term president.

That Reaganesque “happy warrior” spirit has been on display this week at the Republican National Convention, which is themed “Honoring the Great American Story.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made an overt reference to Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign in her primetime address Monday night, referencing remarks made by the late U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick to the convention in late August of that year.

“Democrats always blame America first,” Haley quoted Kirkpatrick saying.

Kirkpatrick, a lifelong Democrat and Georgetown University professor who joined the Reagan administration, in fact employed the line multiple times during her 1984 speech.

She contended the Democratic Party of the 1980s no longer reflected the one led by Harry Truman or John F. Kennedy, who proudly stood up for America rather than apologizing for it.

Kirkpatrick said the American people knew better than to buy into the Democrats’ constant barrage of attacks against their own country and its intentions.

“They understand just as the distinguished French writer Jean-Francois Revel understands the dangers of endless self-criticism and self-denigration,” Kirkpatrick said. “He wrote: ‘Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.’”

Haley said during her remarks: “Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first.

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“Donald Trump has always put America first. And he has earned four more years as president,” she added.

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Haley, like Kirkpatrick and Reagan, argued Americans must not turn away from its heritage and principles, but hold fast to them in order to navigate the way through its current challenges.

“America isn’t perfect,” the former South Carolina governor said. “But the principles we hold dear are perfect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.

“It’s time to keep that blessing alive for the next generation,” Haley continued. “This president and this party are committed to that noble task. We seek a nation that rises together, not falls apart in anarchy and anger.

“We know that the only way to overcome America’s challenges is to embrace America’s strength.”

In a similar “happy warrior” spirit, GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina shared his family’s journey from “cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”

“There are millions of families just like mine all across this nation, full of potential, seeking to live the American dream,” he said.

Scott argued the presidential election is not just about Trump and Biden, but the policies and principles the two candidates represent.

“And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality,” he said.

Also giving a full-throated endorsement of Trump and the U.S. was first-generation American Maximo Alvarez, whose family fled from communist Cuba.

In an emotional speech, the Florida businessman spoke of how Fidel Castro’s policies destroyed Cuba, contrary to all the lofty promises he made to the people.

“President Trump knows that the American story was written by people just like you and I, who love our country and take risks to build a future for our families and neighbors,” Alvarez said. “I may be a Cuban-born, but I am 100 percent American. This is the greatest country in the world.

“And I said this before. If I gave away everything I have today, it would not equal 1 percent of what I was given when I came to this great country of ours: the gift of freedom.”

“President Trump — he is fighting the forces of anarchy and communism,” he said. “And I know he will continue to do just that. And what about his opponent? And the rest of the D.C. swamp? I have no doubt they will hand the country over to those dangerous forces.”

Alvarez explained the decision in the presidential race is easy for him, because he wants America to remain free.

“I choose President Trump because I choose America,” he said.

Reagan, in his 1984 acceptance speech at the Republican convention, said the choice in that election was between “two different visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing.”

“Isn’t our choice really not one of left or right, but of up or down?” the then-president asked. “Down through the welfare state to statism, to more and more government largesse accompanied always by more government authority, less individual liberty and, ultimately, totalitarianism, always advanced as for our own good.

“The alternative is the dream conceived by our Founding Fathers, up to the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society,” Reagan said.

“We don’t celebrate dependence day on the Fourth of July. We celebrate Independence Day.”

The delegates responded with chants of “U.S.A.!”

Incidentally, Reagan said during the 1984 convention that his administration’s goal since taking office was to “make America great again.”

The 2020 GOP convention has definitely recaptured that Reagan “happy warrior” spirit, which hopefully will lay the foundation for a Trump landslide in November.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
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Politics, Entertainment, Faith