With Sen. John McCain set to deliver his acceptance speech in St. Paul, NewsHour historians Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph sat down to discuss the addresses that changed the party and the country.
Norton Smith chose Barry Goldwater’s 1964 address in San Francisco, where he had the choice as the nominee to reach out to moderate Republicans angry with his policies. In the end, Goldwater “ran as himself.”
“He denounced the pale pastels of the opposition. He basically read the liberals and moderate in his own party out of the party. It is a militant speech. It is a principled speech. It is courageous speech. It is a speech fundamentally at odds with the political climate of 1964,” Norton Smith said.
Joseph picked Ronald Reagan’s 1980 speech in Detroit in which he criticizes the previous four years of Democratic control.
“He really says and argues that the Democratic Party is claiming that America’s best days are behind us,” Joseph said. “And Reagan says, I disagree, the best days are ahead of us. And we need to do this through tax cuts; we need to do it through economic stimulus, by letting big businesses explode. We need to have a strong defense. Reagan really succeeds in tapping into a notion of optimism.”