Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Mesquite, Texas

November 05, 1988

The President. Thank you, Phil, and thank you all very much. And a special hello and thank you, George Bush, Jr.—and a special, long-time friend, Martha Weisend. Greetings also to the State GOP chairman, Fred Meyer. It's great to be here at the world-famous Mesquite Rodeo.

You know, I keep a special place deep in my heart for Texas—for every cowpoke or wildcatter, astronaut or rancher, and every man, woman, and child who remembers the Alamo and knows the story of the battle of San Jacinto. You deserve to be proud of this great Republic, and you have the right to enjoy the beautiful flower and sweet fragrance of that yellow rose of Texas. Speaking for Nancy and myself, I can tell you, from El Paso to Texarkana, from the top of the Panhandle to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and clear through the middle of the great Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there's nothing we'd like better than to "Waltz Across Texas With You."

The Lone Star State is actually the State of many stars: Governor Bill Clements; Senator Phil Gramm; former Senator John Tower; Congressman and Senate candidate Beau Boulter; Congressional candidate Lon Williams; railroad commissioner Kent Hance; chief justice Tom Phillips; and a very special friend of mine, the Vice President of the United States, George Bush.

Now, you know, with this great reception you've given me and the way this Republican wagon train is rolling, it's hard to believe that once upon a time to be a Republican around here felt a little bit like being Gary Cooper in "High Noon"— [laughter] -outnumbered in a big way. You know, I remember a story of a fellow who was down kind of in the ranch and farm area here. He was running for office as a Republican. This was some years ago. He came by a farm, saw a fellow out there—at least get in a lick with him. And when the farmer heard he was a Republican, his jaw dropped, and he said, "Wait right here while I go get Ma. She's never seen a Republican before." [Laughter]

So, he went to get her. And the candidate, looking around, thought, well, when they come back, I'll give them a little Republican speech. When he couldn't find any platform—well, the only thing he could find was a pile of that stuff that Bess Truman took 35 years trying to get Harry to call fertilizer. [Laughter] So, he got up on the mound. There he was when they came back, and he made his little speech. And at the end of it, the farmer said, "That's the first time I ever heard a Republican speech." And the candidate said, "That's the first time I've ever given a Republican speech from a Democratic platform." [Laughter]

Well, all that, as they say, is history—or should I say, ancient history, which at my age is a subject that I'm regarded as an expert in. [Laughter] But I've come here today to talk about the future, and there's no better place to do that than Texas. That's because no one in America understands more clearly than you that today America stands on the brink of an era of national greatness that will exceed anything that any country on Earth has ever known before. And that's certainly true here in Texas.

But while we eagerly look to the future, the naysayers, the liberal fearmongers, and the Washington gloom-and-doom-ocrats- [laughter] —talk about how they plan to manage America's decline. But tell me, do you believe that this, the greatest nation on Earth, is in decline?
Audience members. No!

The President. Would you agree with me that the greatest chapters in America's story haven't yet been written?
Audience members. Yes!

The President. The truth is that to a degree never before seen in human history, one nation, the United States, has become the model to be followed and imitated by the rest of the world. Nation after nation is turning to democracy. Heads of state from all over the world, when they see me now, tell me about their plans for reducing taxes and doing the things that we've already done. Our economic recipe has become the world's model. Communism is in retreat, and freedom is on the march around the world. And, yes, American culture and technology dominate the world to such a degree that from television's "Dallas" to Disneyland to the space shuttle Discovery, an entire planet is watching and following us. And, yes, America truly is the envy of the world.

Now, I know that during the Vice Presidential debate the liberal opposition laughed and snickered when Dan Quayle said that America is the envy of the world, but they're going to get their answer soon. You see, the election this year, from top to bottom, from President to Congress to railroad commissioner to State supreme court and State legislature—especially here in Texas—is a referendum on liberalism. And I've got a hunch that where the liberals want to take America backwards—the American people and the people of Texas don't want to go.

Yes, the choice before the American people this year is just as clear as it was in 1980 and 1984: a choice between, on the one hand, liberal policies of tax and spend; gun control; economic stagnation; international weakness; and always, always "blame America first"; and on the other hand, what we believe—the policies of limited government, economic growth, individual opportunity, a strong defense, firmness with the Soviets, and always, always "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America."

This is a chance to vote for the values that make America great and for the policies that turned this country around. I know that times have not been easy in Texas the last 3 years. But our national recovery has taken hold here, and we're going to keep it going until Texas becomes a roaring engine of prosperity to lead America forward, and the Lone Star lights up the sky.

But our opposition would derail this recovery faster than you can say "tax hike." [Laughter] When we took office 8 years ago, America was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression: double-digit inflation, interest rates of 21 percent, taxes and spending out of control. But we cut taxes, slashed inflation by two-thirds, sliced interest rates in half, and today America is in the longest peacetime expansion ever recorded. We're going into our 72d month. And since the expansion began, we've created—I've got the latest one, Phil—it's 14.4 million new jobs. And they're good jobs, three-quarters of them the kind that pay between $20,000 and $50,000 a year, or even more. In the State of Texas, real personal income is up by 10 percent. And today in America, a greater proportion of our population is employed than ever before in the history of the United States. Now, I know we see that unemployment rate, but there's always going to be an unemployment rate. There are always going to be people who, on their own, are voluntarily between jobs. And there are always going to be newcomers coming into the job market. But what I learned since I've been here is that the statisticians consider the potential employment pool of the United States everyone, male and female, from the age of 16 and up. That includes all those millions still getting an education, those retirees who are out there on the golf course. But that's the potential pool. Well, today 62.7 percent of that entire population pool are employed.

Now, lately, some liberals have been saying that they're on your side. I guess they think that will make it easier for them to reach their hand around and put it in your pocket. [Laughter] But you know, we've worked much too hard to cut your taxes to let our opponents come into office and raise them all over again and undo all our progress. So, if you care about fiscal responsibility—that means keeping the liberals from stealing your wallet—here's all you need to do on election day: Step into the voting booth, put your hand on the Republican lever, and say right out loud, "Read my lips: No new taxes."

In fact, a lot of Democrats around the country are saying that their party leadership has swung so far to the left, so far out of the mainstream, that the national Democratic leadership has lost touch with the rank and file of the party. Whether it's higher taxes, their opposition to school prayer, the appointment of left-wing judges, or a weak-kneed defense policy that only a McGovern could love, their views can only be described by the dreaded "L" word: liberal, liberal, liberal.

First, let's talk about crime and the right to bear arms. Our team believes that law-abiding people who want to protect their home and family have a constitutional right to own guns. But the liberals favor gun control.
Audience members. Booo!

The President. In fact, our same opponents who are saying in Texas that they won't take away your guns, in other cities in the country are running political radio ads attacking us because we oppose gun control. When it comes to gun control, the liberals and our team disagree. Now, you tell me—and let me hear the answer: Do you believe the liberals are on your side? Audience members. No!

The President. We believe in strong judges who respect the Constitution and who are serious about fighting crime. Violent crime has fallen sharply in this country since 1981—I don't know why I picked that year— [laughter] —because we put criminals on notice. We said: Make a false move, and the next sound you hear is the clang of a jail cell door slamming shut.

The liberals say they're on your side, even when no matter how horrible or brutal the crime, they oppose capital punishment. Is that the side you're on?
Audience members. No!

The President. I didn't think so. [Laughter] Well, if you ask me, there are no Americans braver and no citizens more precious than the men and women who guard us: our State and local police. And George Bush, Tom Phillips, and I stand behind them all the way because we're on their side. Unlike liberals, we believe that when a drug dealer murders a policeman in cold blood, that kind of killer deserves and should receive the death sentence.

On school prayer—we're for it; they're against it. But the self-proclaimed liberals say they're on your side. I say that they're so way out on the far-left side that if this were a football game the opposition would be called off-side. Actually, they wouldn't even be off-side; they'd be over the sidelines, which is where we're going to send them come election day.

I want to take a moment to say something to the mainstream rank-and-file Democrats here today. You know I'm a former Democrat. And it's often said that the once proud Democratic Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman is dead and gone, that the leadership of the Democratic Party has been taken over by the left. The party of F.D.R. and Harry Truman couldn't be killed. The party that represents people like you and me, that represents the majority of Americans—that party hasn't disappeared. The fact is it's stronger than ever. You see, the secret is that when the left took over the Democratic Party leadership, we took over the Republican Party. We made the Republican Party into the party of working people; the family; the neighborhood; the defense of freedom; and, yes, the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to "one nation under God." So, you see, the party that so many of us grew up with still exists, except today it's called the Republican Party. And I'm asking all of you to come home and join me: Come home to the Republican Party.

Let me just interject here, if I will. My first vote was cast in 1932 for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Do you know what platform he ran on? Reduce Federal spending by 25 percent. Eliminate useless boards and commissions. And return to the local communities, the people, and the States the authority and autonomy that had been unjustly seized by the Federal Government. Well, which party today is running on that kind of platform? Ours.

The fact is, the old Texas Republic is fast becoming the new Republican Texas. And it's former Democrats who are making that happen, conservatives who've come home-people like Phil Gramm and Kent Hance and you and me. This year a record I million Texans voted in the Republican primary.

You see, today there really is a difference between the leadership of the two parties. My friend Phil Gramm knows that personally. The left-wing Democratic leadership in Washington expects its members to take orders and support its radical agenda. Phil changed parties and became a Republican so he could work for the working people of Texas and be a champion of freedom. On election day, just by voting for the whole Republican ticket, you can be a champion of freedom, too. Here in Mesquite, you can say no to the liberal Democrats by electing Lon Williams to Congress. And that will give Dick Armey, Steve Bartlett, and Joe Barton the help they need in Washington. And you know, there's only one man in this election who really wants to join Phil Gramm as the other Senator from Texas, and that man is Beau Boulter. And, yes, it's Chief Justice Tom Phillips and the Republican candidates for the Texas supreme court who want to clean it up and believe that in Texas justice is not for sale. So, remember again, it's Beau Boulter, Lon Williams, Kent Hance, Tom Phillips, and Vice President George Bush. This is the team that is on your side.

And one of the issues where there's the biggest difference is defense. Just look at what Vice President Bush and I have done over the last 8 years. Today we're once again respected in the world. Our Armed Forces are strong, and America is at peace. We and our NATO allies stood firm in the face of Soviet missiles pointing at the heart of Europe and Asia. And Mr. Gorbachev got the message. He did business because he knew we meant business. And we still mean business.

But I know there've been some people that have worried a little about Gorbachev and me in these summit meetings. And they think maybe I'm kind of well, I've gotten a little easier here. But I just want you to know I made it plain to him from the very beginning with an old American saying: Trust everyone, but cut the cards.

But none of our triumphs—no, not one-could have happened if the liberals had their way. There would have been no INF treaty or rollback in Afghanistan or democratic victories around the globe. They opposed rebuilding our military defenses, and even today they want to cancel out of the Navy two carrier battle groups. What they're planning for the Navy is so bad that by the time they get finished Michael will have to row the boat ashore.

No, they opposed the liberation of Grenada. They opposed the raid on terrorist Libya. They oppose our policy of helping freedom fighters fight communism and advance the cause of liberty around the world. There is a sign behind you on that. George and I did all those things, and I'll tell you proudly right now: We'd both do every single one of them over again.

Yes, these have been a great 8 years, but America's greatest days are still to come. For me, this trip to Texas is very special. The election is in just 3 days, and I'm on my final campaign swing. And although, come January, I'm going to be riding off into the sunset, I feel a little like I'm on the ballot myself this year; because on election day what you're really choosing is more than a slate of candidates—it's a vision of America, a dream we share. You know, I can't think of a better place than the Mesquite Rodeo to ask you this question: If you have to change horses in midstream, doesn't it make sense to get on one that's going the same direction you are? [Applause]

Yes, America has saddled up, and we're riding into the future. We're keeping a promise that is as old as this land we love and as big as the sky. It's the vision of creating a new nation of free people, a country that would be a light unto the Nation and a shining city on a hill. On November 8th, the people of Texas will have the chance to vote their children the brightest future the world has ever known and to elect a proud Texan as the next President of the United States. Let's also elect the strong, conservative team that he and Governor Clements need.

Yes, some say that it's time for a change. Well, you've heard it already. We are the change. It began 8 years ago, and now is the time to keep the change alive. So, let's remember what Yogi Berra said: "It isn't over till it's over"—no complacency, no overconfidence. We need you all to work. We need you to put on your spurs and to ride with us. And if you would, I hope you'll win just one more for the Gipper. Let's do all this together for America.
And thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 3:58 p.m. at the Mesquite Rodeo Arena. He was introduced by Senator Phil Gramm. In his remarks, the President referred to Martha Weisend, a longtime Republican leader in Dallas, and Representatives Richard K. Armey, Steven Bartlett, and Joe Barton. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Republican Campaign Rally in Mesquite, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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