Good Example Of Research Paper On The Life Of Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan is known today as a conservative icon, one that many Republicans look to for inspiration. Reagan’s accomplished many things as president, ranging from Reagonomics, cutting the size of government, dealing harshly with the USSR, and bringing an end to the Cold War. His famous economic policy, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, pledged to cut government spending by three dollars for any dollar increased due to taxes (Ehrman 61). Furthermore, he was well known before his days as president because was a governor of California and a former actor. In the end, Reagan embodied the conservative movement of the 1980s. The odd part about the rise of Reagan was that he was raised as Democrat, and gradually shifted towards conservative values. It was a slow process and took until 1964 working for Barry Goldwater, to complete the shift. Ronald Reagan’s early years were a gradual process in which he aligned his basic core beliefs with conservative political ideology and became a major conservative leader as both Governor and President.
Growing up through his childhood and early years, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat. His family was heavily influenced by President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Nevertheless, Reagan’s family instilled certain core values that would eventually conflict with his political beliefs. At first, Reagan did not align these values with politics and lived in a conflicted state regarding his actions and political beliefs. This is because Reagan, even from his early days, was raised to believe in freedom and independence. According to Reagan himself, “America, above all places, gives us the freedom to make our dreams come true” (Reagan, “An American,” 28). Reagan strongly believed in the American dream and the idea that anyone in America can pursue their dreams, doing what they love in order to make money. The only reason this did not carry over into his political beliefs is because he simply was not interested in politics and did not put much thought into this matter. According to Reagan, “I had become a Democrat by birth, I suppose” (Reagan, “An American,” 66). Reagan just went along with his parents’ views and did not initially question why his parents were Democrats and whether he should be one as well. This idea carried Reagan through young adulthood until particular events got him thinking more in-depth about his political ideology.
As Reagan did not put much thought into his political beliefs in relation to his actually ideology, Reagan apparently favored many New Deal programs created by FDR. Reagan also appeared to admire FDR’s personality as his leadership skills resonated with Reagan. Accounts of Reagan’s early years even suggest that Reagan would pretend to give speeches and portray the confidence exuded by FDR. Another reason for this is because of his family’s struggles during the Great Depression. Reagan’s dad struggled to find work and eventually found a job due to one of the programs created by the New Deal (Reagan, “Reagan: A Life,” 34). Reagan had strong ties to his father, and when he saw that his father was able to obtain a job due to the government, Reagan did not question this government’s role and went along with supporting Democratic principles. This would change, however, as Reagan attained national fame as an actor and began working for major corporations, including General Electric.
Reagan’s earliest professions were in the radio and film industries. He actually broadcasted football games for the University of Iowa, and moved on to play by play officiating. He was described as having a great persuasive voice, and he was able to use this complement as a way to get into Hollywood. Reagan began acting in Hollywood around 1937 and it was during this time the foundations of his political views began to shift. Communism was the major threat in the later 1940s and there were many people who espoused communist views within the Hollywood community. Reagan had initially joined the HAVC (Hollywood American Veterans Committee), and believed in peace with the Soviet Union. However, Reagan realized that a communist faction within the HAVC would manipulate and deceive many members within the committee. The FBI ended up getting involved and Reagan left the organization with a negative perception of the communist influences (Reagan, “An American,” 115). This started his bitterness and hatred for the communist party, which would have align his other political views.
Another event which continued Reagan’s shift towards a conservative perspective was the strike in Hollywood during 1947. At this time, Reagan was currently the leader of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). There was a labor dispute going on and many members within the SAG called for a strike. The problem for Reagan was that the members calling for the strike all allegedly had tied to communism and he saw this as their attempt to gain ideological control over Hollywood. Therefore, as the head of the SAG, Reagan opposed the labor strike, which was a controversial course of action. Because this was a popular initiative, Reagan received threats on his life. He did not change his mind and stood up to this protest. He fully believed the communism was the cause of the protests, and this led him to continue to believe in the evils of communism, which helped push him towards conservative ideology (Yager 24).
The ultimate issue Reagan began to have with liberals was that they seriously underestimated the threat of communism. Reagan did not perceive a lot of push-back to communist ideology in Hollywood, especially by those claiming to be liberals. Reagan had begun to understand communist ideology and believed it to be a direct threat to the values taught in America. Reagan viewed communism as a totalitarian form of government, which was a direct violation to freedom. Reagan believed the best way to combat this form of government was to promote democracy and liberty (Reagan, “A Life in Letters”). Reagan saw how communists attempted to promote the will of the people, but in fact used this against them in order to gain complete power throughout the government. During this time, a “Red Scare” was going across America, as this was the start of the Cold War. McCarthyism, which was the attempt to persecute and discriminate against anyone promoting communist ideology, was sweeping through the country. Reagan did not believe in this method either. He began to think that the only way to fight against the spread of communism was to fight it head on throughout the world. He then decided to vote for candidates which treated communism as a direct threat to the nation (Reagan, “A Life in Letters,” 36).
While communism was one issue that Reagan felt passionately about because of his work in Hollywood, this idea alone did not drive Reagan to conservatism. Reagan also began to grow skeptical of the size of the federal government, as this too was an intrusion on individual liberty and freedom. Reagan noted that government welfare programs appeared to de-incentivize hard work, causing some to stay unemployed for a longer amount of time than necessary. While it is true that his own father was a recipient of welfare at one point, Reagan still believed that welfare programs could be used too often and cause permanent harm to the nation. He saw welfare and the beginnings to an entitlement society, which he did not believe was in line with American values (Yager 40).
Another issue Reagan had with the federal government was the actual size. Reagan noted that there appeared to be an overly large number of federal employees that was leading to an increase in government waste. Reagan believed that it could be run much more efficiently with fewer people. However, perhaps the largest factor in Reagan aligning his beliefs with conservative ideology was that of taxes. Reagan saw taxes as hurting freedom and giving many people less incentive to work. According to Reagan, “At the peak of my career at Warner Brothers, I was in the ninety-four percent tax bracket; that meant that after a certain point, I received only six cents of each dollar I earned and the government got the rest (Reagan, “An American,” 231).” The upper tax bracket was a large reason why Reagan began to dislike large government because he could not collect a lot of his profits when over a certain limit. While Reagan was wealthy, he saw this high tax rate as a de-incentive to work more efficiently, as he would not be allowed to reap the benefits.
This all changed with the campaign of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Between the years at GE and 1964, Reagan had not fully considered running for public office, although he had delivered several key speeches describing the dangers of an intrusive federal government and communism. Working for Goldwater’s campaign offered Reagan a chance to gain some political experience and start creating a national image (Reagan, “A Life in Letters,” 171). Barry Goldwater was a conservative icon during this time and believed the federal government had very little constitutional power. He was especially opposed to the programs put into effect by FDR, and wanted to give more power to the states. He, like Reagan, was opposed to the creation of an entitlement society that appeared to be taking place across the nation (Goldwater 20). Working for Goldwater ended up providing Reagan the perfect platform to promote his ideology and begin his own political campaign.
Reagan delivered a speech on in October, 1964, which explained his reasoning for switching to a conservative ideology. Reagan outlined his basic beliefs about why the current tax rate was too high, and the benefits towards obtaining a balanced budget. Reagan did not believe in President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” as it established an entitlement society. The American government had begun to take away essential freedoms and liberty from the people by having too many welfare programs and high taxes. This, added to the threat of communism, were the major reason outlined in Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech which gave him national recognition as a conservative leader (Reagan, “A Time for Choosing”). Because of this speech, Reagan now had national recognition, as this speech was broadcasted nationally. It sparked his political career and led him to become governor of California in 1967. This governorship would eventually lead him to become president of the United States in 1980, where he is forever entrenched as a conservative icon.
In conclusion, Reagan’s upbringing and background laid the foundation for his basic political ideology. Throughout his work in Hollywood and GE, Reagan started aligning his core principles with conservatism, and in 1952, voted for his first Republican. High taxes and communism were the key events that led him to do this. The process was gradual, but by 1964 he became a nationally prominent figure in the conservative movement. These events helped him resonate with many people, which is why he was elected as Governor of California and the President of the United States. The political shift that occurred within Reagan throughout 1940-1960 is the reason he became a national conservative icon, still revered today.
Deaver, Michael K. A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.
Ehrman, John. The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. Print.
Goldwater, Barry M. The Conscience of a Conservative. Shepherdsville, Ky.: Victor Pub., 1960. Print.
Reagan, Ronald. An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.
Reagan, Ronald, and Kiron K. Skinner. Reagan: A Life in Letters. New York: Free, 2003. Print.
Reagan, Ronald. "A TIME FOR CHOOSING (The Speech – October 27, 1964)." 27 Oct. 1964. Web. 31 Jan. 2015. <http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/reference/timechoosing.html>.
Yager, Edward M. Ronald Reagan's Journey: Democrat to Republican. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.
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