Presidents’ Day, Ronald Reagan, and Changing Hearts and Minds

Jedediah Bila, Red Eye, 11-21-12

By Jedediah Bila

Presidents’ Day always reminds me of the power and importance of good leadership. As you know, I’m no fan of glorifying politicians. They’re just people like the rest of us. However, solid leadership and an engaging delivery have the power to change hearts and minds. The real key is getting those who would never be inclined to listen to you to pull up a chair and hear what you have to say.

That brings me to Ronald Reagan. Like all of us, he wasn’t perfect. But he certainly had something special. Sure, many of his policies were strong and successful. But if he hadn’t had the power to convince Democrats and Independents to vote for him, he wouldn’t have been able to set those policies in motion.

Reagan managed to get people interested in politics who wouldn’t have been inclined to care. He made them laugh. He was charming. He was the kind of guy you’d want to have a coffee with and talk plain old common sense on the issues. He wasn’t afraid to just be himself.

Yes, Ronald Reagan was downright likable. And to ignore the fact that likability and a charismatic delivery are pivotal in getting elected is absurd.

A politician’s policies can be stellar, but if that politician doesn’t have the power to inspire people to vote and to get those on both sides of the political spectrum to pay attention, his or her policies will never see the light of day.

I remember having a conversation with a colleague who said that she liked her politicians boring. Well, I don’t. Because boring often doesn’t get elected. Boring doesn’t change hearts and minds. Boring doesn’t make people realize what they have to lose. And boring doesn’t get those who self-identify as part of an opposing party to find themselves listening to what you have to say.

Ronald Reagan was a great leader, but he was also a great politician who understood that you have to market your ideas to people. As we look forward to 2014 and 2016, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep that in mind.

I leave you this Presidents’ Day with some of my favorite quotes from President Reagan, courtesy of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library:

“With me, abortion is not a problem of religion, it’s a problem of the Constitution. I believe that until and unless someone can establish that the unborn child is not a living human being, then that child is already protected by the Constitution, which guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all of us.”

“We in government should learn to look at our country through the eyes of the entrepreneur, seeing possibilities where others see only problems.”

“The deficit doctors have their scalpels out all right, but they’re not poised over the budget. That’s as fat as ever and getting fatter. What they’re ready to operate on is your wallet.”

“All of us should remember that the federal government is not some mysterious institution comprised of buildings, files, and paper. The people are the government. What we create we ought to be able to control.”

“In the Middle East, in particular, a strong, credible America remains the best guarantor of Israel’s integrity and survival as a free nation.”

“The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray.”

“I’ve been told that some members of Congress disagree with my tax cut proposal. Well, you know it’s been said that taxation is the art of plucking the feathers without killing the bird. It’s time they realized the bird just doesn’t have any feathers left.”

“Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So, we cut the people’s tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before.”

“Government does not tax to get the money it needs; government always finds a need for the money it gets.”

**Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila**

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Diana Erbio
9 years ago

Ronald Reagan was a great president. He was the first president I was of age to vote for and I remember how good it felt to hear a presidential candidate praise America again and speak of its exceptionalism, especially after Jimmy Carter! I definitely agree with your point “Ronald Reagan was a great leader, but he was also a great politician who understood that you have to market your ideas to people.” We definitely have to look for candidates with that ability coupled with the principles of free market and dedication to upholding our U.S. Constitution for 2014 and 2016.

9 years ago

Reagan understood that in addition to actually believing in the policies he espoused, which few politicians today do, that he also had to be able to sell his ideas to the public. His years in Hollywood taught him the importance of connecting with an audience. So here again are, in my mind, the two vital things that made Reagan so effective:

1: He actually believed in the conservative values he was espousing. That meant he could debate the issues forcefully when challenged and he wasn’t afraid to take on an opponent’s position and respond with a conservative solution..
2: He understood that he had to relate his values to the audience he was addressing, in terms they could both understand and appreciate. Making conservative values relevant to the public, in a non-lecturing, non-judgmental way, helped sell those values to a country desperate for positive change after years of destructive liberal policies.

So many Republican politicians today simply “phone it in”. They memorize talking points, written for them by staff or hired consultants, and think merely repeating some conservative words here or there, in a lifeless manner, will somehow translate into inspiring voters. Worse yet, many of these Republican politicians, who are actually really moderates or liberals themselves, don’t really believe any of the conservative talking points their espousing. So they are unable to debate the issues in an effective, intelligent fashion against their opponents and they end up coming across as either wishy-washy, incoherent or out of touch.

Treuere Wolf
9 years ago

Great article Jedediah , ignore the morons !

9 years ago

And you weren’t old enough to remember JFK, FDR, Washington, and Lincoln, so better not quote them.

9 years ago

Uh, Gene. There is such a thing as video you know. As in all over YouTube.

9 years ago

Give me a break! I was in 7th grade when Reagan left office and you’re 5 years younger than me. You don’t even remember Reagan.

9 years ago

Excellent. We need more like him.

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