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Thread: I have a new piece in the @washingtonpost about why Ronald Reagan’s laughably bad prediction that the passage of Medicare would destroy freedom is frequently recycled by conservatives, most recently by Eric Trump at the RNC. /1…
Here’s a link to Reagan’s 1961 speech./2…
As I show, Reagan’s 1961 prediction was itself recycled from anti-New Dealers who made similar incorrect predictions about being “the last generation to receive and cherish the legacy of liberty,” as one New Deal critic put it in 1936./3
One thing I learned in my research is that Reagan had regularly used the famous line about “telling our children and our children’s children about what it was like when men were free,” in 1960, before his famous anti-Medicare speech of 1961./4
It is telling that Reagan used this line to conclude his speeches in 1960 before JFK has proposed Medicare. In those speeches, in fact, he didn’t mention socialized medicine at all—he mostly focused on the evils of progressive taxation and government encroachment. /5
This suggests that the line was meant as an all-purpose denunciation of the telos of the New Deal liberal project, which tended inexorably to unfreedom and tyranny. Eric Trump used the line in the same general way to denote cultural chaos rather than a specific program. /6
One side note about Reagan as orator: he was always looking to improve his speeches. In those earlier speeches, he used the far-less effective phrases ““twilight” or “later” years, rather than “sunset years,” which he had settled on by 1961./7
It is interesting that he echoed this language in his 1994 letter to the American people announcing his Alzheimer’s disease, when he spoke of “the sunset of my life.”/8…
I didn't watch the RNC and I learned about Eric Trump's use of Reagan's line from this helpful @KevinMKruse thread./9
Thanks also to @rickperlstein who pointed about that Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg (Ret.) also quoted the same passage from Reagan at the RNC, although, unlike Eric Trump, Kellogg did not explicitly acknowledge the Gipper./10
Last, but certainly not least, many, many thanks to @KeishaBlain for very helpful editing and to the fantastic @madebyhistory team for their help and support. /11
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