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COLUMN: A nod to conservative stalwarts Reagan, Limbaugh

COLUMN: A nod to conservative stalwarts Reagan, Limbaugh

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One of the first lessons learned when writing a column on a regular basis is that you can never please everyone. That’s true whether writing a sports column for a small-town newspaper, an auto racing column for a national magazine, or a column oriented toward the national political scene, as is this one.

Nonetheless, feedback from readers is one of the factors that keep writers motivated. Emails of support and those of condemnation provide equal incentive.

One reader suggested recently that I’m merely out to draw attention to myself. My work was lambasted for being too negative and not offering “solutions” to the problems of society. The same reader previously sent an email in support of socialism.

Well, now.

This column has been consistent over the last four years in espousing tenets of conservatism that are, in fact, solutions. Limited government, lower taxes, reduced regulation, the pursuit of individual liberty, and many other right-wing principles have made regular appearances in this space, all offered as a counter to the excesses of government and the vein of socialism that inflicts our republic. Even a casual reader of this column need not read between the lines to discern the solutions offered up here.

Moreover, consideration of the solutions offered by conservatism, particularly over the last 60 years, would not be complete without examining the words and life’s work of Ronald Reagan, our 40th president. Recently, motivated by the accusation of not offering solutions, I spent time listening to the words of Reagan, particularly his “A Time for Choosing” speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention. My interest coincided with the 110th anniversary of Reagan’s birth.

That speech was a watershed event for conservatism and for Reagan, who had recently undergone a conversion from the party of Democrats to the party of Republicans. He had, in the words of Dems, been “deprogrammed.”

It is important to note that, according to a co-worker who for years was a regular listener of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” was discussed by Limbaugh at some point in the recent past.

Limbaugh succumbed to lung cancer on February 17, at age 70, ending a radio career that spanned decades and inspired millions of conservatives.

This column, then, is a nod to two men who are unequaled in uplifting conservative principles for everyday Americans.

Limbaugh dissected the problems of society each weekday in his three-hour radio show, breaking down issues in a way that bore into the root causes—and, yes, those problems were grounded in liberalism and the solutions cloaked in conservative principles. That was Limbaugh, a man who defined conservative principles like no one else from the end of Reagan’s tenure to now. The ability to analyze and explain topics was his calling.

Reagan, meanwhile, set the tone in that 1964 convention speech as he introduced presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in what proved to be a losing effort against Lyndon Johnson. Buoyed by that appearance, Reagan later became president in 1980, but only after failing in his bid for the nomination against incumbent Republican Gerald Ford in 1976. Jimmy Carter then defeated Ford, of course, and embarked on a liberal agenda tame by today’s standards yet destructive to the economy.

Reagan’s election in 1980 reversed the malaise enveloping the country and set up an economic revival that lasted for decades.

The foundation for that success was laid in 1964. “A Time for Choosing” is a timeless speech, striking in its ability to endure against the changing winds of liberalism. In many ways, Reagan’s words are more relevant today than they were nearly 57 years ago.

Due to space limitations inherent with a weekly column, I’ll reference only portions of “A Time for Choosing.” My critics would call this “cherry picking” as if any writer worth his or her salt does not use selected facts to support an opinion, especially in a column limited by space.

The excerpts below are from a version of the speech provided via YouTube by the Reagan Foundation through The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

On the folly of an overreaching federal government, Reagan said:

“The full power of centralized government—this was the very thing that the Founders sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people, and they know when a government sets out to do that it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.

“They also knew, those founding fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”

On the government attempting to achieve equity among citizens:

“We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they’re going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Now if government planning and welfare had the answer—and they’ve had almost 30 years of it—shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help, the reduction in the need for public housing? But the reverse is true—each year the need grows greater, the program grows greater.”

On the misguided intentions of liberals:

“Any time you and I question the schemes of the ‘do-gooders’ we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always against things, we’re never for anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

On the loss of individual liberty:

“Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, inalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close from slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment. Our Democratic opponents seem unwilling to debate these issues.”

That last statement about a lack of debate was especially prophetic. Today, more than ever, liberals, progressives, leftists, or whatever they’re labeled, refuse to consider solutions invoking the foundational tenets of freedom and prosperity—reduced government, lower taxes, increased individual liberty, free markets, freedom of choice, and on and on.

Solutions, indeed.

Conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh—and, yes, even local newspaper columnists--have been offering these remedies for as long as this country has been in existence. The actual application of those solutions and preventive measures has often been problematic given the limitations of our two-party system.

That, sadly, is not likely to change for at least four years.

Larry Cothren has worked as a writer and editor for more than three decades. He teaches at Hickory Ridge High School and can be reached at

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