In 1964, Ronald Reagan gave his now-famous “A Time for Choosing” speech, perfectly articulating conservatism. The platform he detailed is still powerful today. However, few are able to articulate it as well as The Great Communicator. Forty-eight years later, we are once again at “A Time for Choosing.” The economy was far from perfect in 1964, but it is in even worse shape today. We must recognize the dangers we face economically and politically and then make sure conservatism is still clear in the Gipper’s absence. President Obama as destroyed freedom right and left and our nation is more polarized than ever. It’s time for us to make a choice once again.
In May of 1964, the unemployment rate was 5.1%. In May of 2012, it stood at 8.2%. The national deficit was a mere 311,712,899,257.30 in 1964. Now the deficit is nearing 16 trillion. During his speech in 1964, Reagan mentioned that the US had not balanced 28 out of the last 34 years. Balancing a budget is now merely the pipe dream of every Constitutional Conservative. At least Congress had a budget in 1964.
Sure, other presidents have certainly contributed greatly to the debt and unemployment in the 48 years since Ronald Reagan gave that speech. This is one case where blaming Bush is somewhat appropriate. However, the rate at which Obama has increased our debt and destroyed our economy is astounding. Between inauguration day in 2009 and today, 671,000 more Americans are unemployed and the unemployment rate has gone from 7.8% to 8.2%. Note that 7.8% is the highest the rate reached under George W. Bush. Under President Obama, the rate rose to 10% at its peak. The federal debt has gone up a massive 48% from its 2009 level of $10.6 trillion. That’s an increase of $15,553 per person. Furthermore, the number of people in poverty has increased by 6.4 million since 2009. Ouch. Sure, President Bush wasn’t the most fiscally conservative Republican. However, compared to President Obama, he looks like a penny pincher.
The difficulty we are in is more than just a numbers game, however. We face a battle of rhetoric as well for conservatives are not always at the forefront of framing economic and political arguments. Plain economic facts are not always as potent when the debate is framed to automatically force conservatism on the losing side. Ronald Reagan hit upon this point in his 1964 speech when he said, “Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re ‘against’ things—we’re never ‘for’ anything.” Sound familiar? Remember the “Party of No” concept that liberals projected upon to Republicans during the Bush years? People on the left are constantly attacking conservatives for being “partisan” and “close-minded” and for not reaching across the aisle. I mean, the Republicans did pass a massive health care entitlement through Congress with no Democratic support or a majority of the American people supporting its passage. Oh wait…wrong party. In short, “close-minded” is now code for “disagreeing with liberalism.”
The issue is not that conservatives don’t stand for anything. The issue is that few people are able to articulate the conservative platform as perfectly as Ronald Reagan. We keep getting stuck in the rut of being labeled racist, ignorant, and uncompassionate because we oppose amnesty programs, doubt man-made global warming, and reject Obamacare, respectively. In Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech, he did enumerate the planks of the conservative opinion. Perhaps it’s time we follow his example more closely.
Liberals often say we are against “Reproductive Rights.” Sure, based upon their liberal definition of these supposed rights, we are against them. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not “for” anything. Conservatives are for women’s rights and equality of opportunity, but not in the liberalized sense. Let’s just say we are against anything that includes abortion, Planned Parenthood, or mandatory contraception coverage. However, we are for pregnancy help centers, adoption, and good health care for all people, regardless of gender. Likewise, liberals often complain that we are “against” the poor. I don’t think so. Conservatives aim to help the poor by not making them dependent upon a bloated entitlement. We need to give a hand-up, not a hand out. How about we shrink the size of government and reduce regulation on small businesses? That way, private charity can step in and business owners can hire workers to lift them out of poverty. Oh, and don’t forget Obamacare. Liberals claim that conservatives are “against” good and affordable healthcare because we do not support the president’s health care entitlement. In actuality, Obamacare will provide neither good nor affordable healthcare. It will drive up our debt and make more people dependent upon the government. You want a realistic solution? How about we allow people to buy healthcare over state lines and sever the tie between employment and healthcare coverage. In short, let’s make the system more competitive in the private sector.
We truly are at a time of choosing, both by economic figures and cultural discourse. This election is not simply a competition between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It’s a battle for the soul of our nation and revival of the American character. We have to make a choice because we can no longer be silent. Learn the facts and educate yourself. Learn to articulate your position clearly and professionally. Most importantly, let your voice be heard so that we might change the very course of history.
Amy Lutz | Saint Louis University | @AmyLutz4