Chapter 16: The Triumph of Conservatism
Ronald Reagan – Acceptance Speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention
In 1964, conservatives had seized control of the Republican Party, but the catastrophic loss of Barry Goldwater led many to believe that they had blown their opportunity to seize the reins of national power. But the obituaries offered to conservatives in the wake of Goldwater’s defeat were premature, to say the least. Conservatives began to work feverishly at the grassroots level and by 1980 as the American people had become increasingly frustrated with activist government and were losing confidence with a Democratic Party seemingly adrift they were poised with the best opportunity in three decades to ascend to national power.
However, the true difference in 1980 would be Ronald Reagan and his accessible brand of political conservatism, which was wrapped in the language of national greatness, the inherent optimism of the American dream and the desire of the American electorate to once again feel proud of their nation. Reagan’s acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican convention would pave the way for a landslide victory in November vs. the incumbent Jimmy Carter. But more than a short-term political win, Reagan’s victory would signal a fundamental shift in the nation’s politics away from activist government to a more restrained conservative model, shifting the nation’s political pendulum to the right.