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The Lessons of Ronald Reagan's Race for Governor in 1966

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: This is fascinating.  I spoke earlier in the previous busy broadcast hour about Reagan's campaign for governor in California in 1966.  It is instructive because of this battle here between American conservatives and the Republican establishment, and believe me, they're two different things.  Now, George Will says there's no Republican establishment and there hasn't been since, what, 1966.  But there is.  The Republican establishment for all intents and purposes for the sake of our discussion here, is made up of what you would call RINOs. 

The Republican establishment is northeastern Republican conservatives.  They're right on the fiscal side of things most of the time, but they don't want any part of the social issues.  They can't stand it being part of the party platform.  They don't want to talk about it.  They have no desire to be part of that discussion.  They think it's going to lose elections, all that kind of stuff, plus they do tend to believe Washington is the center of the universe.  Republicans win elections.  They're in charge of the money.  They like that.  They tend to believe that an energetic, powerful executive wielding financial powers, spending money for the national good with conservative instincts is a good thing.  So if government grows under that rubric, then it's fine. 

We, of course, as conservatives, don't see things that way, and there is the divide.  And the Republican establishment is made up of a lot of powerful people with a lot of money, and they want to win.  Just like we do.  They employ whatever muscle they have to see to it that they do.  They want their candidates to be representative of what they want, all of which is understandable.  So there's this battle going on.  The added intensity this time around is another point of disagreement.  That is the Republican establishment doesn't really think the country's threatened.  They don't like Obama.  They think Obama's a disaster, but the country's not in any danger here of real long-term damage.  I mean, it's just overblown, all this talk about saving the country, it's not that bad.  All we gotta do is get our people in there and put us back on the responsible fiscal track and everything will be fine. 

They don't see the Democrat Party the same way we do.  They don't see the Democrat Party as basically socialist liberal, and they cringe at such talk.  And these people never really were enamored with Ronald Reagan.  They never really liked him.  They just lived on edge every day:  What's this guy going to do that's going to embarrass us?  What mistake is he going to make?  What stupid thing is he going to say?  They actually had this view.  Tip O'Neill was not the only one who thought that Ronald Reagan was an amiable dunce.  There were in the Republican establishment who thought that before Reagan ever ran for office and after he won the presidency.  And they thought that back in 1966.  After all, he was just an actor, introduced GE Theater. 

So from the August 2001 archives of the Claremont Institute is an extended excerpt from a Steven Hayward book:  "Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders."  Now, this thing is too long and too dense for radio, but it does have a pertinent link in it because it's a detailed description of how Reagan had to overcome the Republican elites who doubted him.  The GOP elites of the time in 1966 thought of Reagan as an extremist, as they think all conservatives are.  Now, at the time, California was three-to-one Democrat to Republican in terms of registered voters.  Reagan won by appealing to crossover voters and independents, despite his extremism.  But who are independents?  Who are these people? 

Now, during Reagan's presidency, we constantly heard talk about Reagan Democrats.  These are basically southern, hard-working, blue-collar people who wanted no part of the Jimmy Carter Democrat Party, and they loved what Reagan was saying.  Reagan made them and everybody proud once again of their country.  If you weren't old enough or paying attention back in the mid-19'70s through 1980, this country was in as every bit a disaster as today, although we weren't on the precipice then as we are now.  But the economy was just as bad.  We were led by somebody who had no clue what he was doing.  It was a disaster.  Jimmy Carter even created a term to describe his own presidency: Malaise.  Jimmy Carter was a forerunner of Mayor Doomberg telling us what our thermostat settings had to be, almost telling us what we had to eat.  Wearing cardigan sweaters in the White House to set an example for freezing because of the energy crisis, gasoline prices were rising and going through the roof. 

That's why I said that Obama would be Jimmy Carter's second term.  So Reagan comes along and runs for office in those circumstances, much like the Republican nominee is going to be running for office this time.  Back in the '80s, during his presidency, we had the Reagan Democrats.  These were Democrats that defected from the Democrat Party.  Now, I contend that the term "independent" has been created by the Democrat Party and the media so they don't have to use Democrats in the description of people voting for Republicans.  They don't like the notion that there are defections from their party.  So we have in our political parlance today this term "independents."  And the general theory is that in every presidential election 40 percent of the votes automatically are going to go to the Democrat, 40 percent are automatically going to go to the Republican.  So in the primaries the candidates focus on the base to get the nomination. 

But then when they seek the big prize of the White House, they've actually got to convince those independents, that 20 percent, the great undecided.  And the political consultants have come along and told every candidate, "I'm the guy who can get those voters for you.  I know who those independents are, and I know how to get them to vote for us."  And so they write speeches for the candidates and they put thoughts in their minds and basically that's where this whole notion, "Don't criticize Obama.  Don't be extreme.  Don't be partisan.  The independents don't like that.  They want everybody to get along.  They want bipartisanship.  They want compromise.  If you don't make it sound like you're capable of that, you're going to send them running right back to the Democrats." 

So this faux, fake, phony interpretation of who actually elects the president has been around for decades.  I contend to you that moderates are simply liberals who don't want to admit it.  Independents, at least in the past, have been disaffected Democrats who vote for Republicans.  But the mainstream media didn't like the term Reagan Democrat.  There's no Democrat that would vote for Reagan.  He's a stupid idiot, amiable dunce.  So the term independent was created to give these people super power status in terms of their brain power, and so every election is fought over these 20 percent. 

This takes us back to 1966. Reagan running for governor. Three-to-one voter majority, Democrat over Republican in terms of voter registration -- and Reagan won against a beloved incumbent, Pat "the Giant Killer" Brown. And Steven Hayward said he did it by appealing to the cross-over voters, the independents, but how was he able to do that? Because the Republican establishment of the day thought that Reagan was an extremist. How in the world does an "extremist" appeal to moderates? How does an "extremist" get votes from independents? And there's a very telling passage in Hayward's book, and it is this, and it is applicable to today: "Reagan understood that with a Democratic voting edge of three-to-two in California, a Republican could only win by appealing to crossover voters. This required a united Republican Party more than a centrist campaign."

Again: "Reagan understood that with a Democratic voting edge of three-to-two in California, a Republican could only win by appealing to crossover voters. This required a united Republican Party more than a centrist campaign." That is the polar opposite of the way the GOP elite think today. It's the polar opposite of the way the Republican establishment thinks today. The Republican establishment thinks today that you win independents and moderates by talking "compromise" and by talking "bipartisanship." Basically, you water yourself down. You get rid of your ideological impulses and you hide them, and instead you talk a bunch of mush -- mealy-mouthed mush. But what was foremost important was a united Republican Party.

When you're facing a voter registration disadvantage of three to one, you need every Republican vote there is -- and you also need the Republican Party totally behind you. Now, we're not faced with that kind of voter registration disadvantage. The Democrats don't out number us three to one nationwide. In fact, in polls people asking what their ideological orientation is, there are twice as many people who identify themselves as "conservatives" in this country as there are people who identify themselves as "liberals," and I've always thought that ideology is as important a factor in campaigns as party is. Now, the Republican establishment totally disagrees with that. The Republican establishment thinks you go getting all ideological on people, and that's the end of your campaign.

You're just going to drive these independents away. They don't like ideology. That's dead wrong. Ideology is, used to be anyway, the way parties were defined -- and should be again. Anyway, Pat Brown was so sure that he could beat Reagan. He worked behind the scenes to help him win the GOP nomination. They thought Reagan would be a pushover, and "A large number of the Democratic voters who had ... crossed over for Reagan, including as much as 30 percent of labor union members. He did especially well in several working-class communities with heavy Democratic registration... Republicans also did well down the ticket, gaining five State Senate seats, five State Assembly seats, and three seats in Congress" despite being outnumbered voter registration-wise.

There are a lot of lessons to learn here, and Reagan teaches so many of them. Even to this day, the Republican establishment... Well, who was it that came up with the whole theory that "the era of Reagan is over," if it weren't for the Republican establishment? That's who came up with that notion, and you remember all of the people who signed on to it. Newt signed on to it for a while then he recanted. A lot of the inside-the-Beltway conservative intelligencia signed on to it. "The era of Reagan is over," because it always embarrassed him and it always frustrated him because the era of Reagan was conservatism.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: I've got a couple of other points I want to make before we go to the phones, but we are going to go to the phones in just a second. In this book that I have been reading from, this Steven Hayward book that's archived at the Claremont Institute. It's from 2001. "'Here We Are On The Late Show Again' - How Ronald Reagan Defied Expectations And Beat 'Giant Killer' Pat Brown" is the title of the book. The same book quotes Reagan as saying this. Listen carefully to this: "We don't intend to turn the Republican Party over to the traitors in the battle just ended." He was talking about the Goldwater campaign of two years past. This is '66; the Goldwater campaign was '64.

Reagan said, "We don't intend to turn the Republican Party over to the traitors in the battle just ended. We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals of our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the party over to the so-called moderates wouldn't make any sense at all," and the traitors he was referring to were the Rhinos of his day who had undermined the Goldwater conservatives during the 1964 campaign. And Reagan was saying: Over my dead body is the Republican Party going to be turned over to those people. We're only going places if we conservatives run this party, if we take it over and if we are unified. (interruption)

What? This is 1966. Well, it's close to "ideological purity." He didn't like moderates. He knew that moderates were... In fact, Reagan knew that he could unite more people with a strong platform rather than a moderate one. You go back just last week. The New York Times admitted this in an article about how Obama needs to become more partisan last week. Remember we told you about it. There's an effort going on in the Democrat Party. They think Obama is getting too moderate for them. They don't think he's going to win. That's why he's reacting going back to the class warfare stuff. He's trying to keep everybody happy by joyously being who he is: This class warfare warrior, setting groups of people against each other.

He's gone full-tilt liberal, full-tilt socialist, because the New York Times and the Congressional Black Caucasians are telling him, "Buddy, you better be who you are because that's who we are and you're not going to win being who you are." Well, Reagan was saying the same thing back to the Republicans back in 1966. Now, let me ask you this: Let's pretend it's 1976. Let's pretend it's 1976 and Gerald Ford is president and Reagan decides to take on Gerald Ford in the Republican primary. Who do you think that the Republican establishment would back? Gerald Ford. They did! It was Gerald Ford. They backed Gerald Ford, and they would do it again -- and what do you think they would have been saying to us? They would be saying, "Reagan can't win," and they did say that.

They'd be blaming Reagan for harming Ford's re-election possibilities by even running against him for the nomination, which they said. They'd be saying, "Reagan is unelectable in the general election," which they said, and that's what they're saying today. Why do you think these same people are writing pieces late at night, desperately begging Chris Christie to get in? Desperately begging others to get in? It's because they want to shut down anybody on the conservative side that might get this nomination. It's clear as a bell that that's what's going on. Now, I think that these people who are demanding new candidates in this race are undermining the cause. There are plenty enough candidates running. We have all kinds of different backgrounds, and there are uniquely different positions from candidate to candidate to candidate.

You keep feeding the liberal media with this nonsense that our field is weak or that the field can't win. The voters are not saying that, by the way. Voters are not saying that. Scott Rasmussen, the pollster, says (summarized), "I'm not running into voters who are turned off by the weak field. You've got some, but it's not a majority." It's, again, the Republican establishment is worried that these people can't win. They don't think conservatives are ever going to win anything, and they don't want them to. So they write these late-night pieces begging Christie to get in and "save the party" or whatever, it really undermines the party. If Chris Christie wants to get in, get in! Come on in. Anybody else? Sarah Palin, get in if you want to get in. But contributing to the liberal mantra that our candidates are weak and bad and can't beat Obama is not only wrong, it's self-defeating. The same people talking about a "big tent" seek to shove most of the people in the tent back outside in the rain. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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