With millions of Americans out of work, unemployment is marching ever higher. Gasoline prices soar, painfully hitting family budgets with every fill-up. As fall approaches, an incumbent President holds a narrow lead, intent on gaining a second term. The key to victory is a relatively small group of undecided voters; a conflicted electorate who respect the President, but recognize his policies have failed to lift the economy out of a recession. Do they give the President a second chance and hope for the best? Or take a risk on a pro-business Governor who talks about economic freedom? While this scenario sounds familiar, this is not actually describing the current situation in 2012, but instead 1980.
That incumbent president was Jimmy Carter, who held a low single-digit lead until late in the fall, when the American people finally answered a clarion call from a California Governor named Ronald Reagan, who said that the solution to our economic crisis would not come from a bigger, more expansive government but instead from soaring economic freedom.
At the rate movie themes and characters are recycled these days, it’s clear we are living in a remake world. But it isn’t just movies anymore; we’re seeing the political plot line of 1980 repeated in 2012. But in politics, while the plot may be the same, the ending is not yet written, because the American people have not yet made their decision.
Our country today is faced with 43 straight months of unemployment over 8%. That’s more Americans unemployed for longer than under the last eleven presidents combined. Gas prices have nearly doubled in four years, averaging more than $3.80 a gallon. The abysmal economic “recovery” is now the self-made crisis of the Obama Administration, which continues its empty calls for more jobs, even as more and more Americans leave the workforce entirely. We’ve been through nearly four years of failing policies that make the current “recovery” almost indistinguishable from the recent recession.
In 1980, the choice between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan was similar to what voters are facing today.
Many of us remember 1980 clearly, but for my younger children this is their first opportunity to choose between big government or private enterprise. It is this generation’s turn to decide if they will stick with an incumbent President’s tax and spend policies despite the stagnant economy, or if they will support a challenger who promises to work for economic freedom. The actors have changed, but the policies remain very much the same.
In 1980, Americans decided they’d had enough unemployment, high taxation and spending. They didn’t know the details of Reagan’s plan, but they had a sense of his vision for individual freedom and limited government. They also knew that the current President was only making things worse. In firing Jimmy Carter, they voted with hope that a different President would be a better President. This is still the decision we face today.
Alarmingly, Americans today have begun to accept high unemployment, debt, and rising energy prices as the new normal. As a result, many Americans are less willing to hold their President accountable for a lackluster economy or weak jobs market. The perk and the penalty of the job of President of the United States is that you are responsible for everything, the good and the bad of the economy. We must hold our elected leaders accountable for the economic situation they have helped create, and make a decision based on the merits of their actions, or inactions. The voters of 1980 knew that, and made the right choice.
The election of Ronald Reagan ushered in a period of economic growth and a boom in American jobs unlike anything we’d seen in decades. It wasn’t immediate. In fact, Reagan’s Republican Party suffered devastating losses in the 1982 election. But even in the face of these short-term losses, President Reagan remained true to his principles, and as a result our country benefited from the greatest sustained economic recovery in modern American history. Reagan’s economic policies reassured business owners and calmed the nerves of people throughout the country, who in turn began hiring and producing again. This man led and changed the course of our country for at least two decades, establishing our country as not only the beacon for the free world, but an example of the success of economic freedom.
As we are living in a remake world, let’s hope the American people remember the history lesson from 1980 and once again reject big-government policies that have set our economy back years. If not, we already know what to expect: four more years of failing policies, fewer jobs, and more debt.
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