Most people don’t remember the moment Ronald Reagan burst onto the national scene.
He did so on October 27, 1964. He gave a speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s campaign for President. But he did more in that speech. He crystalized the one fundamental question facing the country:
Should we have a socialist society or a free society?
In the intervening years, that question has been answered again and again. Americans prefer to be free, rather than to enforce a false equality that only makes everyone poorer.
In the intervening years, Communism has been tossed onto the ash heap of history, just as Reagan said it would. Everywhere, free markets and democracy have triumphed.
And yet tonight, he we are, facing the Great Leap Backward.
All the questions that were decided over the last 40 years ago seem in play again.
We have a rogue President, and a rogue Congress, and they are enacting socialist legislation that will deeply harm the country. Obama and the Democrats are trying to stage a reversal of everything America stands for. They are trying to shove us back, back to the days of a bankrupt ideology that flourishes nowhere in the world.
…I have an uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn’t something on which we can base our hopes for the future. No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in.
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.
And yet, in 2010, we find ourselves captive to that same little intellectual elite.
…we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a greater government activity in the affairs of the people. But they’ve been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves; and all of the things I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say, “…”The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century.”
Paging Tom Friedman…
Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as “our moral teacher and our leader,” and he says he is “hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document.” He must “be freed,” so that he “can do for us” what he knows “is best.”
Barack Obama, speaking the other day: “Now, I don’t know how passing health care will play politically — but I know it’s right.”
And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.”…
“[T]he full power of centralized government”—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. 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.
But our President believes just the opposite. He believes that centralizing all power in Washington, with him and his friends, will lead to a more efficient system. A more rational system that he and his friends can run. They want their hands on the levers of power; they desperately want to pull the strings. You and I are the marionettes.
Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the—or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.
Or at this moment. History repeats itself.
Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
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.
And now that very same challenge returns.