Ronald Reagan's Address to Young Americans for Freedom
The following is an address given by Governor Ronald Reagan to Young Americans for Freedom in 1975.
Officers, members of YAF, Young Americans for Freedom, first of all let me thank you for allowing me share in this meeting with you in this manner, and at the same time express my regret that it was impossible for me to be there with you in person.
You know you never cease to amaze me, you have followed a philosophy in spite of the fact that you spent your lives growing up in a nation that was characterized by an atmosphere of tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect. The era of the free lunch and the handout. How you have clung to principle and followed the philosophy that you follow does amaze me but at the same time as a citizen I want to thank you and commend you for it.
You know, the policies that our opponents, those who follow the liberal philosophy, have espoused have distorted the balance between the different branches and levels of government, they have distorted also the relationship of the people to their government. But maybe you and I have done better than we know, those of us who talk of conservatism. Because the great majority of the people today, believe with us. They may not be able to put a label on it, but their approach to the various policies of government is the same as ours.
Now, this was evidenced in the 1974 election, disastrous as it was, when we look at the liberal candidates who campaigned and who won, by espousing the same philosophy that we have talked for so many years. When they wet their fingers and held them up in the political wind they found there was no longer a market for the old fashioned cliches of the New Deal and the Great Society, and all the other social tinkering that's gone on for the last forty years. They were against deficit spending in the campaign, but what we have to be on guard for, is the fact that now they are voting for a $100 billion deficit in the budget. There was an incumbent senator from the middle-west who ran on a platform for re-election in which he opposed gun control and bussing, and since returning to Washington he's voted for both.
They say that politics is the second oldest profession, sometimes it bears a grave resemblance to the first.
Our responsibility now, is to point out every discrepancy between the campaign promise and the post-election performance of these people who sang our song. Its time to quit trying to organize the same old minority every two years and start informing the new majority every day who has been responsible for bringing us to the brink of disaster, economic disaster. Our task is now one of education and information, we no longer have to sell our philosophy. And I submit that the Republican Party has the great opportunity to do this. We have a concrete example to hold up for comparison.
A great nation, with a land mass greater than our own, rich in natural resources, 250 million capable people. And for more than fifty years, they have been free to fully implement and put into practice without hindrance or interference, all the principles of socialism. And we could be just like them, but it would take a little doing on our part.
We'd have to start by cutting our paychecks eighty percent, move 33 million workers back to the farm, destroy 59 million television sets, tear up 14 out of 15 miles of highway and two thirds of our railroad tracks, junk 19 out of 20 automobiles, rip out 9/10ths of our telephones and tear down seventy percent of our houses. And then all we'd have to do is find a capitalist country that would sell us wheat on credit, so we wouldn't starve.
You know, in spite of all our greatness, our people feel a sense once again or a desire to feel a sense of greatness. A sense in the pride in their own capacity, for performing great deeds. We republicans I think can do something about this, but not if we try to be all things to all people. There are some in our midst who have suggested that we should broaden our base. Except that what they mean by broadening our base is to blur the image, to make us indistinguishable from the other party.
Some have suggested that the 1974 election, the disastrous results, were an indictment of what we stand for. Well may I suggest that the meaning of the last election will not be found among those who voted, it will be found by polling those who stayed home. The biggest non voter bloc in our nation's history.
And why did they stay home? Well because they said they couldn't see any difference between the two parties.
I think they're basically wrong, but I think this is also an indication of what our answer should be to those who would make us more like the opponents. I am a convert to Republicanism. I spent most of my adult life as a democrat, and I can testify that when I found I could no longer follow the leadership of the democratic party, I became a republican not because the parties were the same, but precisely because they were different.
More than half of those who didn't vote have been polled and say, it no longer makes any difference which party wins.
Now some have taken another course, there are some among us, and I respect their views, who suggest that that means an end to the Republican Party that we should form a new third party. May I suggest an alternative to that? Let's have a new first party. A Republican Party, raising a banner of bold colors, no pale pastels, a banner instantly recognizable as standing for certain values which will not be compromised.
Yes, we must broaden our base, but lets broaden the way we did in 1972, because those Americans, democrats and independents, and republicans are still out there looking for a banner around which to rally. And we have what they want, what they're seeking. But they don't know that. And sometimes I wonder if we know it.
Young people, your own companions, I am told are registering either democrat or independent avoiding us in overwhelming numbers. Well is this because of what we represent, or what they think we represent? I know that in a poll of 35,000 college and university students, eighty percent of them said they wanted more individual freedom, less interference by government in their private lives. Well isn't that what we want?
Our banner should also proclaim our faith in the marketplace as the greatest provider for our people, and that we will eliminate needless regulations and restrictions that keep the marketplace from being able to provide the jobs our people need. And on that subject, let us also proclaim compassion for those who through no fault of their own cannot provide for themselves, see that their needs are fully met. But at the same time, let us say that all those who are able-bodied, will be given an opportunity to work for their welfare grants. We will not make them lifetime recipients of a dole, as clients of an ever-growing welfare bureaucracy.
We must extend our compassion to that great group of unsung heroes, the working men and women of this country who ask nothing of government but to be left alone. They make the whole system work, but for a long time they haven't been fairly represented in government.
Today they see themselves falling further and further behind unable to afford the good life they've earned and deserve. Political demagogues for the last four decades have been appealing to the worst in us, the tepidity and selfishness of human nature. They've been telling us that each one of us can have a bigger slice of pie but we have to help them take it away from someone else who's been getting too big a share. Well I think it's time for us to tell those political demagogues, we can all have a bigger slice of pie if government will get out of the way, and let the free enterprise system bake a bigger pie.
James Burnham has said that even the most skillful surgeon when operating on a democratic politician, cannot separate demagogic from solid tissue, without causing the death of the patient.
Can anyone say that the banner that I've presented so far does not represent what has been typical republican philosophy, but does it not also represent what the people of this country in an overwhelming majority desire for themselves and the country today? Our party must stand for the traditional belief in a federation of sovereign states, of local autonomy and individual freedom. We didn't seek on the world scene the leadership that has been thrust upon us, but we can't abdicate that leadership without abdicating our ability to keep the peace.
We have seen in recent months little men with little minds in Washington tarnish our shield and rob us of credibility throughout the world. Make it plain to every friend and foe alike, every nation, that we will join any in seeking peace, but we will keep our commitments, and we will not give away freedom not ours to give. Nor will we sacrifice our own freedom, we will indeed sacrifice to maintain that freedom and peace throughout the world.
One last line, I think we have room for on our banner. Let us add a line that says as a pledge:
That never again will young Americans be asked to fight and die for their country, unless the goal is victory.
Thank you very much.