Reagans Popularity Essay

This essay has a total of 1653 words and 7 pages.

Reagans Popularity

Ronald Reagan presided over the United States from 1981 to 1989. Even though the country
was experiencing major economic and social problems, he was popular for the majority of
the time he was in office. Throughout his presidency, he and his administration worked
continuously to build his image as a true American. Partially because of his image, the
public ignored the rise in unemployment, the drop in salaries, the increase of people
living in poverty, the increase of children born out of wedlock, and the rising number of
people in jail. Reagan was popular because the public was focussing on his image and his
promises, not what was actually happening.

Ronald Reagan’s inaugural speech had a patriotic theme. In it, he stated that the
country, which had unlimited potential, was limiting itself by jeopardizing its future.
Striving to create a sense of confidence, he pledged to “cut taxes and end deficit
spending” and to restore the glory of the United States (35). He sensed what the public
wanted, and he promised to achieve it. Throughout his terms, he wanted them to feel that
life was improving, whether it actually was or was not.

Reagan’s image played a key role in his popularity. To his oath taking on inauguration
day, he wore a formal suit. The public approved of his formal attire; his glamorous image
seemed to promise that prosperity and security were in store. His good looks and sense of
humor won over the public, and his self-confidence persuaded them to trust in him. His
acting ability allowed him to convince his audience that everything he said would happen;
the audience automatically trusted him to take care of them. To give him the appearance
of a hard worker, his staff released a daily schedule that showed him working long hours.
To protect his image, his staff allowed him to take part in few news conferences. His
strong, self-confident image would be shattered if the public saw his confusion that
resulted from his partial deafness and the unexpected questions. When he did not say
anything worth printing, White House spokesman Larry Speakes would supply a quote. Reagan
increased his patriotic image by hosting a party in celebration of the Statue of Liberty.
Leslie Stahl, a reporter for CBS, called him a “symbol of pride in America” (64).

Along with his image, the public also fell in love with his personality. They enjoyed
hearing his speeches, filled with entertaining anecdotes and jokes. Knowing that he meant
well, they overlooked his factual errors. Most people did not realize that somebody else
had written the President’s speeches, anecdotes, and jokes. His sense of humor also
fascinated the public when he joked about John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on him.
His popularity increased, and he received increased support from both the public and
Congress. Reagan had an “instinctive ability to reassure and soothe…grieving Americans”
after a tragedy (54). After the Challenger exploded in early 1986, he gave a speech that
emphasized renewal, saying that Americans must move forward and achieve great
accomplishments to honor those who died. Reagan also made an effort to meet his promises.
In order to lower taxes and to build up the military, Reagan met with Congress about 70
times to discuss the issues.

Reagan’s administration and the media were other key reasons for his popularity. James
Baker, Edwin Meese, and Michael Deaver, all three of whom occupied major positions in the
White House, “sensed the public’s strong desire to see a president succeed and understood
that the media could play a critical role in assuring success” (54). His staff welcomed
the media in hopes of controlling them and gave them many opportunities to photograph
Reagan working. To appeal to a television audience, Reagan gave many speeches
specifically written to appeal to their emotions. An article on television criticized
Reagan, contrasting his attendance of the Handicapped Olympics with the reduction of
federal support for the handicapped. The article was to his advantage; the pictures of
him with the red, white, and blue increased his patriotic image. The viewers saw the
pictures of him, glorifying his image and ignoring the message of the article.

During the 1984 Presidential Election, Reagan’s administration concentrated its effort on
proving his main opponent, Walter Mondale, appear inferior to Reagan. On television,
Mondale looked gray and had a whiney voice, contrasting sharply with Reagan’s vitality and
commanding voice. Reagan’s staff used special lighting to emphasize Mondale’s droopy eyes,
making him appear tired. Mondale was a pessimist, while Reagan was an optimist. The
public favored optimism, as they wanted to enjoy life and ignore threatening issues.
Reagan’s staff designed commercials that emphasized his patriotic spirit and family
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