How does Reagan Use of Rhetorical Techniques to Convey his Message?

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Updated: Aug 16, 2023
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Ronald Reagan’s Presidency: A Rhetorical Analysis

Ronald Reagan was far ahead of his time. Reagan came in and ran the presidency to a perfection that had not been seen since he left the oval office.  Reagan was able to unite a divided American people on many common issues and ultimately became the savior of America in many ways. With his charisma and wit, Ronald Reagan was loved by the American people and respected by Congress. Reagan worked hard to restore America to the vision he saw and ultimately did so.

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He made a more united better run America in his time in office and is one of the greatest presidents in the modern day. He accomplished this through his character and leadership during his presidency, his relationship with Congress, his economic and domestic policy, his foreign policy, and how his party succeeded in his time in office. Ronald Reagan was an excellent leader and exemplified great character during his time in the nation’s most respected office. Reagan was president in a time of uncertainty and political turmoil. With this in mind, Reagan still was able to lead America to become a united country once again. His rhetoric always included “we.”

Reagan was a master at using his words and charisma to his advantage when he held the office of the president. An example of this would be the last paragraph of Reagan’s first inaugural address,” The time has come for the American people to reclaim their dream. Things don’t have to be this way. We can change them. We must change them. Mr. Carter’s American tragedy must and can be transcended by the spirit of the American people working together. Let’s get America working again. The time is now.” Reagan used we many times to represent these problems as problems of the American people, which helped him deliver his point more clearly. Not only this but Reagan was committed to the American way and American values. America also got a sense that Reagan’s character was very strong. He had a moral compass and an innate sense of obligation to perform well in his position for his people and his country. Ronald Reagan also had integrity. He exemplified this when in 1981, Reagan faced one of the biggest issues of his presidency. On August 3, 1981, twelve thousand air traffic controllers went on strike, which created a huge problem for the new president to face. Reagan delivered a statement that if the strikers did not report to work in the next forty-eight hours, their job would be lost.

Reagan then carried out this threat, effectively keeping his work and showing the American people his trustworthiness. When faced with a catastrophic issue, Reagan was able to act swiftly and deliberately to solve this problem. Through this issue as well as many others, Reagan was able to show that he is a man of his word. Reagan was also very persistent and strong. On March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot in an attempted assassination. He was shot in the chest by John Warnock Hinckley Jr., who ironically did it to impress actress Jodie Foster rather than for any political reasons. He returned to the oval office in April more loved by the American public than ever for his strength and refusal to give up. Reagan was also an excellent communicator, which also helped him become a great leader. He was able to communicate well with the American people and other forms of government. Ronald Reagan was extremely optimistic and had a vision to better America. His ability to communicate this vision is what allowed him to make a change in America. The American public also took notice of this. Reagan’s approval ratings were almost fifty-three percent on average for his full eight years in the oval office. Reagan got an A grade for his leadership and character because of what it did to push forward not only his political agenda but also America as a whole.

Reagan’s Relationship and Negotiations with Congress

Reagan also had a good relationship with Congress and was very impactful in the dealings of Congress. Regan, at the beginning of his presidency, had a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Reagan knew that this would make it hard for him to push his vision through a Democratic House. Although faced with this challenge, Reagan still overcame it. Reagan was able to find moderate democrats that could agree with his ideas and found the most important part of American politics, compromise. Reagan was also very practical in knowing that he couldn’t get everything he wanted. He accepted the compromise, and his vision flourished in it. Reagan actually came into the prestigious office of the president with the intention of reducing taxes. Reagan, in an effort to compromise with both parties, ended up raising taxes eleven times. His goal was to reduce marginal taxes on personal and capital income. He originally agreed to make it twenty percent and then later compromised to raise it to twenty-eight percent to match the income tax rate. By the time he left the prestigious office, he had lowered marginal tax rates from seventy percent to twenty-eight percent, remarkable numbers for the compromise that he went through.

In Reagan’s autobiography, “An American Life,” he states that he agrees with the quote by Franklin D Roosevelt, “I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average.” This speaks volumes about how Reagan was a practical and valued compromise to get what he was seeking. Reagan also went through compromise when dealing with the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The act simplified the income tax code and increased fairness in taxes, and opened the door for economic growth. He was able to write this into law with the support of Richard Gephardt in the House and Bill Bradley in the Senate. Both of these individuals are Democrats who compromised with Reagan over the issue of the complexity of taxes. Both sides got something that they wanted, and the American people benefitted from a more understandable tax act. Reagan did this more than once in his eight years. He was a master negotiator and was able to apply this trait to further his vision for America into reality. Reagan was able to understand the other side of the argument, which helped him pass legislation such as the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Reagan gets an A for his dealings with Congress, his relationship with them, and his ability to compromise.

Reagan’s Economic and Domestic Policy

When Reagan became president, the economy was at its worst point since the Great Depression. To combat the high inflation and tax rates that were devastating the nation’s economy, Reagan, with the help of William A. Niskanen from his Council of Economic Advisors, created Reaganomics. Reaganomics focused on four things: making cuts in government spending, making cuts in income and capital gains taxes, making cuts on regulations in businesses, and making cuts on the expansion of the money. Reagan promoted laissez-faire economics and ultimately wanted less government regulation in economics. Sadly, this didn’t work to the extent many thought it would. Inflation was lowered but monetary policy rather than fiscal policy. Government spending was not lowered, though; rather, it was shifted from domestic projects to defense. As a result, the debt rose from nine hundred ninety-seven billion to close to three trillion dollars. Although this was the case, Reagan did decrease the growth of government spending to an increase of two and a half percent compared to President Carter’s four percent. Reagan also made major tax cuts. Reagan reduced the income tax to twenty-eight percent for anyone single making eighteen thousand five hundred fifty dollars or more. This was better than in 1980 when anyone making one hundred eight thousand dollars or more had a tax rate of seventy percent forced upon them.

Reagan was also able to cut corporate taxes from forty-six percent to forty percent. Reagan also increased import barriers from twelve percent in 1980 to twenty-three percent in 1988. Reagan was also a big believer in the government needing to do well. He was quoted as saying, ‘Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.’ Besides his economic views, Reagan did have a conservative agenda for his domestic policy. Reagan opposed abortion and cut many programs that assisted mothers and children as well as minorities. Reagan neglected women in his policies, but in an effort to make up for it appointed Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female supreme court justice, to the supreme court. Reagan was also in denial of the ongoing AIDS epidemic as well as many drug abuse problems and did nothing to help those issues. Reagan mainly focused on cutting taxes, making a more balanced budget, reducing support of social welfare programs, and returning powers to state governments. He did well at all of this except really for his policies on social welfare, at least in theory. On paper, Reagan was much better.

Reagan did not cut Medicare or social security. His spending was twenty-two percent of the gross domestic product compared to the standard twenty percent, but Reagan did cut welfare program spending by roughly twenty billion dollars a year. The major issue with Reagan’s economy was that with the tax cuts, the government had no money to spend. What made this worse was that Reagan even increased government spending even though there was no money to spend. With this, the debt tripled during his time in the presidency. Reagan overall gets a B grade for his economic and domestic policy. His policies did help revive a struggling American economy, but, in some ways, he made it worse. He increased the debt by lowering taxes while increasing government spending and many of Reagan’s domestic policies were traditional and not innovative to provide a catalyst for change like he said his vision entailed.

Reagan’s Stand on Foreign Policy and Defense

Ronald Reagan had a foreign policy that suited the time well. Reagan was not a fan of the foreign policy of détente, which was the idea of easing relations with the Soviet Union. He also did not believe in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks that were ongoing with the Soviet Union. Reagan believed in both cases that the Soviet Union was taking advantage of America being “soft.” Reagan’s belief was that military defense was the only way that the world would achieve peace. Therefore, a lot of government spending under him shifted toward defense. Reagan was hard-headed and refused to back down. Reagan also employed a policy of containment. His goal was to stop the Soviet Union from spreading influence and to keep non-communist countries from ever becoming communist. Reagan continued these policies until Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. As a leader, he sought to reform the Soviet Union both socially and economically. For the first time, the Soviet Union came to America with a real chance at peace. Reagan quickly realized the opportunity he had and proceeded to calm the tensions that he was raising due to his stubbornness.

Reagan held plenty of summits with the Soviet leader, Gorbachev, in his second term in an effort to ease tensions. Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to reduce their respective nuclear arsenals, Gorbachev promised to withdraw from Afghanistan, and Reagan agreed to abandon his SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). Reagan was able to talk down tensions with the Soviet Union to the point where in 1991, two years after he left office, it would collapse. Reagan was astounding in his dealings with the USSR. He was stubborn when he needed to be, but when he saw a chance to end to madness, he took it. Reagan also dealt with many more foreign issues than just the Soviet Union. In 1982, America supported Israel while every single other middle eastern nation supported the PLO or Palestinian Liberation Organization. Reagan sent a couple thousand troops to keep the peace in this brewing conflict. In response, a suicide terrorist killed two hundred thirty-nine marines in the US Embassy in Beirut.

In response, US troops retreated. However, Reagan, as he has shown in every foreign policy circumstance he has been involved in, did not back down. He saw that Libya was funding terrorist organizations to attack the US and put that down quickly by bombing Muammar Qaddafi’s, the ruler of Libya, residence. This sent a message that the US could not be messed up and was an example to the world that the US was not going to back down. Reagan also employed the policy of containment in areas of South America. Reagan financed guerilla fighters in El Salvador and sent troops to the island of Grenada to stop the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a socialist state. Reagan also got the CIA to train Nicaraguan freedom fighters, Contras, to oppose the Sandinistas, who ruled a socialist government with communist ties.

The Iran-Contra Scandal: A Blot on Reagan’s Foreign Policy

This is what ultimately led to the Iran-Contra Scandal, which was probably the biggest blunder in Reagan’s presidency. This happened because the US agreed to sell arms to Iran (a known enemy of the US) in exchange for hostages held in Lebanon. A lot of this money ended up being used to fund the Contra movement. Initially, the scandal was covered up by the government, but when leaked by the press outraged Americans. Ronald Reagan, in short, was willing to do whatever it took to bring the US to the top. He opposed communism. He worked with it and everything in between. He did have mistakes, such as the Iran-Contra Affair, but overall Reagan was able to take a very uncertain time for Americans and calm it down and ease the tension that had been among the American public for so long. Through his persistence and ability to do whatever it takes, Reagan talked down the Soviet Union virtually to the point of collapse. He also kept the Western Hemisphere almost completely communist-free. Besides the Iran- Contra Affair, Reagan’s foreign policy was a success and drove the US forward into the new age. For that, he gets a B grade.

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How Does Reagan Use of Rhetorical Techniques to Convey His Message?. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from