Thoughts on Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time For Choosing” Speech
This speech was televised during the Goldwater campaign in 1964 in support of his candidacy. This was a sweeping speech touching on most of the hotbed issues of the time; Vietnam, welfare, taxes and the ever over budget American government.
This speech was made directly to the people, and although it was made in support of Goldwater, it seems to be a foundation of Reagan’s political career. Reagan went beyond the basic party line that the democrat’s were ruining America, and picked at every fault in the democrat’s plans, he blasted away at all of the programs of the “Great Society”, exposed the gross inaccuracies in the planning and execution of existing programs. He then portrayed Goldwater as a kind and caring individual, who would do anything to help someone in trouble.
Reagan’s portrayal of Goldwater seems to be made to soften the Goldwater image and to help overcome the fears Americans had of the time. Goldwater’s hard conservative stance made him seem like someone who would drop a bomb at the slightest provocation, but Reagan painted a picture of someone who not only wouldn’t drop the bomb in an instance but someone who wouldn’t drop the bomb period. Although the speech only mentions Goldwater a few times and only several sentences talking directly about him, thus making the speech less of a tool to get Goldwater elected but more of a way to get people to start thinking of Republican ideals, while seeing what was wrong with the Democratic party.
Reagan goes into some detail of the programs of the “Great Society” and exposing them for the badly run, money-wasting organizations that they were. He continues drawing many likenesses of the administrations views to Marxism; he gives examples of these with the farmers who were losing their land, and a story of a woman getting a divorce so she could receive more welfare. This has the effect of shocking the listener, and creating a feeling of general disgust as parallels could be drawn with other issues of the day, issues such as the increasing divorce rates, the bankruptcy of farmers, rising cost of basic items.
But the speech failed to get Goldwater elected, because of public perception of Goldwater, and the idea that the “Great Society” actually was working well. Even though the speech failed it did stay in people’s minds as it became increasingly obvious that the “Great Society” had failed, just like the Final Frontier, the Fair deal before it.