Reagan’s Appeal to Wisconsin

Milwaukee hosted the fourth Republican debate Tuesday night. Introducing the debate was a video championing Wisconsin’s proud Republican tradition, from a reference to the one-room schoolhouse in Ripon in which anti-slavery activists decided to form the Republican Party to a video of a visit by Ronald Reagan.

In that clip, Reagan praises Wisconsin – of course.

(If you can find the video, please send it to me.)

In another appearance in 1984 in Milwaukee, Reagan made a very effective overture to disaffected Democrats in Wisconsin that may seem quaint in today’s hyper-partisan environment. In that speech, he said the following.

“Now, I know that there are many proud Democrats in Wisconsin. People who cherish the memories of FDR and Harry Truman and John Kennedy. These men were leaders who believed in strength abroad and self-reliance at home.”

“And to all those Democrats who might be here today, and I hope there are many, who feel that the present leadership of the Democratic Party is out of step with the rank and file Democratic membership of that party – the patriotic Democrats who so many times in the past were supporting the same things that we believe in – they who know that the leadership today of that party no longer stands behind America’s role in the world, that it no longer represents working men and women, that it is abandoning the decent patriotic Democrats of the JFK and FDR and Harry Truman tradition. And we say to you, if you are here, come on. Walk with us down the path of hope and opportunity. It can be bipartisan.”

“Add your strength to ours, and all of us can build something new for America. Something far better than before.”

Considering today’s Democratic Party platitudes, replete with assurances of any giveaway appeals to requisite slices of the electorate, plainly devoid of probity, an embrace of the weakest foreign policy in generations, and a neo-genderist agenda demanding free birth control, the co-mingling of boys and girls in high school bathrooms, and radical political correctness, Reagan’s words ought to resonate with the gun-toting Democrats in my own life who punch a timeclock before work and wash their hands after.

The Democratic Party today has left those people behind and grasped at hopes that they can say enough repugnant things about the GOP as to retain a declining share of Kennedy Democrats.

Today’s Republican Party is the mainstream party, as demonstrated by the diversity in background and opinion on display in Tuesday’s debate. The GOP can win in states like Wisconsin by making a similar appeal as Reagan’s. In fact, a Republican with broad appeal like Marco Rubio has near-landslide potential against Hillary Clinton, who has given Sanderian Socialism a big hug, a move so far left she’s in oncoming traffic.

That’s as long as certain elements of the conservative electorate don’t decide to stay home in rebuke of a bold bipartisan appeal to all of America rather than just select slices.

Reagan ended the speech with an anecdote about learning, as a young man growing up in the state just to Wisconsin’s south, the words to “On Wisconsin.”

“I think there’s only one way we can top that song, and that’s to put all our hopes and dreams for our country into one simple phrase: On America.”

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.