1984: Morning in America

ImageLuke and I were discussing the upcoming Presidential race… as we spoke I was most impressed with how politically aware Luke is.  Of course I had to ponder… Luke will be 17 by the time the election rolls around–at 16/17 I do recall how I was becoming more politically aware as well.  The first time I remember tracking a candidate was the 1980 election and of course by the 1984 election I was Luke’s age…and I was very much a Reagan fan.  Just wanted to take a moment and piece some of those things together…mostly for Luke…but it is sometimes entertaining to take a quick sprint down memory lane.
Summer 1984, the Olympics were held on home soil for the first time in half a century, and American athletes at the Los Angeles Games dominated their international competitors. (A boycott of the games by the Soviet Union, in retaliation for the Americans’ own boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, admittedly weakened the competition.) Team USA won four times as many gold medals as second-place Romania, and the exploits of charismatic athletes like gymnast Mary Lou Retton, sprinter Carl Lewis, and high-diver Greg Louganis inspired a new nationalistic fervor among adoring fans. At the same time, Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign rolled out a series of über-patriotic television ads that displayed idealized scenes of everyday American life while a soothing voice-over explained, “It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan our country is prouder and stronger and better.”
Morning in America” became the common name for the political campaign television commercial, formally titled “Prouder, Stronger, Better” and featuring the opening line “It’s morning again in America.”  It featured a montage of images of Americans going to work and a calm,optimistic narration that suggested the improvements to the U.S. economy since his 1980 election were due to Reagan’s policies and asked voters why they would want to return to the pre-Reagan policies of Democrats like his opponent Walter Mondale, who had served as the Vice President under Reagan’s immediate predecessor Jimmy Carter

The phrase “It’s morning again in America” is used both as a literal statement (people are shown going to work) and a metaphor for renewal.


“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
Summer of 1984 found its perfect soundtrack in Born in the USA, a chart-topping new album from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Released a month before the Olympics convened in LA, the record soon became an unavoidable presence (not to mention over player) on American radio; seven of the album’s twelve tracks eventually became Top 10 singles. The title track, in particular, seemed to capture the nationalistic spirit of the moment in its anthemic chorus—”Born in the USA! / I was born in the USA!”—and in the star-spangled imagery of its cover art. Many listeners heard in the music a rock n’ roll echo of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America.”
Many sought to cast Bruce Springsteen in the role of Ronald Reagan in blue jeans and a white T Shirt—they only missed one small thing: “Born in the USA” was a protest record. Its patriotic chorus—the only lyrics most listeners ever learned—stood as a bitterly ironic counterpoint to the song’s verses, which told the story of a hopeless Vietnam vet. It’s hard to imagine Ronald Reagan appreciating the song’s full lyrics
Not really the stuff of “Morning in America.” Springsteen also rebuffed requests from the Reagan campaign to use “Born in the USA” as its official theme song, and responded to Reagan’s New Jersey speech with a special dedication at his next concert: “The president mentioned my name the other day,” Springsteen told the crowd, “and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite album must have been… I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.” He then launched into “Johnny 99,” a bleak song about an unemployed millworker who drunkenly shoots a night clerk and ends up sentenced to 99 years in jail.

“…when it came to his re-election, Reagan’s victory was all the more convincing (than in 1980): he secured 525 electoral college votes to Walter Mondale’s 13, carried 49 states and secured a popular vote majority of almost 17 million!” –Shane Greer

And this commercial neatly encapsulates the message of the entire 1984 campaign, and indeed continues to be credited with playing a large part in Reagan’s victory. In 1984, Reagan won a smashing re-election campaign over WALTER MONDALE. Democrat Mondale, running with the first woman nominee for Vice-President, Geraldine Ferraro, won only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. A 1984 Reagan campaign as declared proudly, “It’s morning in America.” Whether the claim was fact or fiction, American voters accepted Reagan’s assurances and enthusiastically cried for a second term.
Wonder how 2012 will turn out… Morning in America?  I don’t know Luke…but keep your ideas fresh, your vision clear, and I have no doubt you will make a difference in this country some day…
Just had to post this one…just gotta love Reagan
 

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