Reagan: Mastering the Rhetoric of Love

(Quote From 8:41)

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There are two meetings that take place in 1980, and these two meetings are the turning point.

One meeting was called Washington for Jesus, and that was in the spring and thousands, tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of Christians show up at this kind of giant… not a political rally, but a prayer rally for the country in Washington.

And a number of figures who later became prominent or at least active in… in what is called the New, the Christian Right, or New Christian Right, came to that meeting as well as Bill Bright and other figures who were part of the Evangelical Protestant community. That was not an earth-shaking event, but it indicated a lot of people showed up to Washington, what appeared to be something like a political rally.

And then that September there was a meeting that was a political rally. It gets almost no attention on the web. Almost none, except from things I’ve written about it, but it was the turning point.

It was called the National Affairs Briefing Conference, and at that conference organized by a man named Ed McAteer from the Christian Roundtable and put together by a number of men who had skills in political mobilization. Two groups — really, three groups — showed up. Two depending on how you define them.

The first group were political trainers activists beltway activists, people like Paul Weyrich who is a very skilled man in getting out the vote. Howard Phillips, another figure who’s been around for a long time, very skilled in terms of understanding political action, political alignments.

This is part of what was the leftover of the old Goldwater movement, as extended by a man named Richard Viguerie who had a very powerful mailing list, [a] multi-million dollar empire based on a relatively small mailing list of Goldwater donors in 1964. He got the list and began building this giant political operation which is called the new right, and these political technicians show up to speak and they invite because of McAteer who knows everybody, and everybody trusts in the in the movement.

McAteer gets into one giant arena in Dallas he gets several of the men who had been the elected as the head of the southern baptist convention like Adrian Rogers and Bailey Smith. Phyllis Schlafly is their political activist, [having] been involved in at that point had been actively involved in the Goldwater movement. [She] made herself famous with her book A Choice, Not An Echo.

Hundreds and hundreds of them and the lure is they’ve invited the three candidates for president. There were three that year: people forget. There’s Ronald Reagan, and there’s Jimmy Carter, that’s John Anderson, and they’re all invited to come out at the end of this two-day training session, three-day training session.

They’re invited to come out and give an oration of some kind on the final night… and Carter doesn’t show and Anderson doesn’t show and Reagan shows.

He is preceded by one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard by a man named James Robison who’s still on television, but he’s not a particularly powerful speaker anymore he went through some kind of a religious crisis or something. About 18 months later and his whole
demeanor changed. It was the most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard. And he said, warned him, he said do not become identified with one political party. Do not wind up… basically he said do not wind up in the hip pockets of any political party.

He was right. It was a powerful presentation. I mean it was something. Then he sat down and Reagan got up, and Reagan gave again an extraordinary speech. And in that speech he, he had a line which stuck, and he said having heard Robison’s speech, “You can’t endorse me. But I can endorse you,” and with that phrase he grabbed 13,000 people, grabbed them. He was a master of rhetoric. He was elected within two months, overwhelmingly elected out of nowhere they really didn’t know what hit them.

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Now, there is a distinct difference between Reagan’s rhetoric and his action, as North notes later.

But that is not what I want to point out today.

It is true that Reagan was a true master of rhetoric, saying the right thing at the right time. But note the emotional overlay of his words: “You can’t endorse me. But I can endorse you.”

Words that show love and affection and pride. Words that the religious politicians and operators at that time lapped up like starving men at an unexpected feast.

Words that easily overshadowed the silence of the other two candidates, who elegantly showed their low-key disrespect with their absense.

(I’ll let you imagine the verbal abuse today’s liberals/progressives/leftists would offer those Christian conservatives, right into their faces. I can hear the Progressive Litany now…)

And most critically, words that hollowed out the hardcore wisdom of James Robison’s wise advise. A show of heartfelt love can wipe out any amount of intelligent, incisive advice.

Advice that those Christian Conservatives of 1980 should have taken, just as they should have left the beautiful-but-powerless words of Reagan behind.

People place their emotional needs, their fears, their loves, their hates first, and then come up with the flawless rationalizations and systems of logic to justify it.

True for the conservatives, true for the progressives. True for the atheist, true for the believer.

Christians must be careful to place their hearts in the right place. The first commandment is “Love the Lord thy God” not “Master the Five Logical Proofs of God’s Existence.”

God well knows that the mind is the slave of the heart. We need to understand this too, and guard against the various forms of flattery, intimidation, and other deceptions that Satan, the father of lies, is well-skilled in using.

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