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Anti- and Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech


Micklethwait and Wooldridge state that Ronald Reagan was initially a democrat who admired Franklin Roosevelt but later changed his alliance to adopt conservatism. Consequently, he approved the candidatures of Republicans; Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower while still holding the tag of a democrat. Reagan being an employee of General Electric often gave speeches that had a politically conservative lace and they eventually lost his job after they became too unpopular with the management (Para. 6). His conservative attitudes have been linked to the southern political culture, a region that had the majority of whites who took long to accommodate other races (Cole and Adams 1). He managed to integrate the variant nature of conservatism into one ideology. This essay asserts that Reagan was an anti-democrat, a standpoint that southerners supported.

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Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech

In his speech, a time for choosing’, Reagan opposed the rapid expansion of the government through taxation as vouched by democrats. He stated that citizens would be impoverished because the policy meant a tax burden on them. This view resonates with the classical conservatives who were cautious of the striving foreign policy. The American civil war which was begun by the south over slavery rights left most of the southern politicians unpopular, argue Cole and Adams. This later made it difficult for presidential candidates from the south to seek votes unless they migrated to other places up to the time Jimmy Carter was elected (3). In his speech, Reagan opposed government intentions of going to war to safeguard American security. He argued that it would betray the intentions of forefathers to provide for the freedom of all. He said he thought it’s time we asked ourselves if we still knew the liberties that were “the Founding Fathers intended for us.” Probably; Reagan must have been drawing his view from the lessons learned by the Southerners in the civil war.

Southern political culture supported a free market economy. Reagan’s speech opposed collective ownership of property as the socialist democrats had proposed. He was against constitutional changes that would bring the motive of “the welfare of the state” to meet people’s requirements in life. This, he said was apt to put everyone under the forceful control of the state which in turn would hinder them in making economic choices. Collectivized farming in the US had become expensive yet unproductive. The federal government was experiencing high costs in maintaining agriculture programs meant for the people and so he suggested privatization of the sector where farmers would pursue their investment capacities. Southern Political culture, through values such as religiosity, capitalism, and patriotism; defended the freedom of individuals to perform economic activities of their desire. Cole and Adams added that the free market economy was supported by southerners because it indicated overall freedom (4). Reagan voted for these sentiments when he said, “A government can’t control the economy without controlling people.”

Southerners were suspicious of the striving foreign policy because they thought it would cause socialism around the world. Reagan was similarly opposed to the reckless spending in the name of foreign aid because some programs of aid ended up in the hands of insensitive leaders of the third world. He said, “We’re against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.” He talked of aid going to support “extra wives” of these leaders instead of performing the intended economic purposes.

At that time, the government had spent 146 billion dollars on foreign aid but there was nothing to show of it. Reagan supported aid to allies but he would rather have it go directly to individuals than pass through governments. Southern conservatives also argued that the US would undermine the taxpayer in the name of keeping allies to wage war on communism (Micklethwait and Wooldridge para. 8).

Southern Political conservatives preferred aloofness from the United Nations’ control. Since the human rights charter was signed in 1948, The US still had issues with racism. Southerners had wanted white supremacy to dominate and had even gone ahead in states like Louisiana and Mississippi to put this supremacy into the justice system until the civil rights movements began. This was despite the UN championing the fight for human rights. Reagan’s speech stuck to this southern view. He said, “…we’re against subordinating American interests to an organization that has become so structurally unsound…” In this case, the American opinion was more important than what the UN wanted.

Ronald Reagan probably preferred well-established institutions. He observed that the program against destitution involved deceptions on how money was given out and required mending or alterations to allow taxpayers to adopt a means of their saving instead of contributing to a program that found its way in corrupt recipients. In this case, he was opposing the democrats for setting up a system seen to be exploitative. He said the program required a sound basis otherwise it would show that we lacked in “business sense. “ He proposed for People who did not require those payments to determine their choice of getting them. Conservatives, as a matter of principle, believed in well-set institutions to allow better management of national resources and manage the flow of the market economy, and protect the liberty of citizens (Williamson 13).

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Anti-southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech

In this speech, Reagan did not support the southerners. Jones Williamson asserts that most conservatives from the south supported individual liberty without concern about their effects. At one time, people would be free to carry guns ostensibly to protect themselves. This, however, led to disobedience of human rights, where people took justice into their own hands (14). Reagan supported justice for all and respect for human rights. He opposed the frequent confiscation of property from poor farmers in the name of selling them to better users of the land. This he thought would undermine individual rights to ownership of property. ”Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government…so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at the moment.” He was referring to democrat’s confiscation of property for government ownership.

In this speech, Reagan talks about Barry Goldwater’s initiation of programs to help employees in his company like the retirement plans and health maintenance system. This is a great departure from classical conservatives who were pessimistic and sensed losses in any new programs. Based on this as a campaign agenda for Goldwater, we can think Reagan was not a pessimist like the southern conservatives. Reagan talks of how previously, campaign managers ran out of patience when Goldwater skipped a campaign to see a dying cancer friend. He liked this quality of risk-taking.

Unlike southern conservatives, Reagan did not hate taxation (Micklethwait and Wooldridge para. 7). His concern was in the way the collected money was spent. He observed that there was a need to have a system that did not devalue the meaning of taxation and individual collection schemes would pay back the person in the future rather than incurring losses due to dollar devaluation. Reagan would want taxation to benefit the taxpayer and not appear as a burden to them. “No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden…Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collectors share…we haven’t balanced our budget,” He said.

Reagan supported programs that would reduce juvenile delinquencies such as helping them attain education. He realized that programs that tried to accommodate criminals were more expensive. ”We find that we are going to spend each year just on room and board for each young person…4,700 dollars a year. We can send them to Harvard for a 2,700 course.” Southern conservatives believed in the freedom of the people without consideration to such remedies. Although classical conservatives supported elitism, they had been supporting the criminal accommodation programs.


In conclusion, it can be important to note that Southerners applauded Reagan after this speech because it contained some of the features they supported; a general opposition to the democrats. This speech was based on conservatism to draw his ideology in which he combined several conservative views into one. Reagan departed slightly from southerners in matters like the concept of taxation, justice, and human rights which they had resisted for long. While the conservatives opposed taxation in totality, Reagan wanted the usage of tax to change and benefit the ordinary citizen. Reagan also supported ways of helping the poor, something which conservatives viewed with pessimism.

Works cited

Cole, Rickey L and Kimberley S. Adams. “Mississippi: An Emerging Democracy

Creating a culture of Civic Participation among Formerly Oppressed Peoples.” Nebula. 4.3(2007): 1-12.

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Micklethwait, John and Adrian Wooldridge. “Reaganism: the Gipper’s brand of Conservatism is Unique in to America.” The Wall Street Journal (Online). 2009. Web.

Williamson, Jones. Conservatives: was Reagan one of them? Cologne: Zap Books. 1996.

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"Anti- and Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech." StudyCorgi, 2 Nov. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Anti- and Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech." November 2, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Anti- and Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech." November 2, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Anti- and Southern Elements in Reagan’s Speech'. 2 November.

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