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Lessons from the Nuclear Freeze | Boston Review

by Andrew Lanham

In the run up to the 1976 presidential election, Ronald Reagan was struggling. He lost the first six primaries to Gerald Ford. Then he discovered that stoking people’s fears about the Soviet Union could win voters. He began making demonstrably false claims that America was falling behind in the nuclear arms race and that the Panama Canal Treaty then being negotiated would let communist forces encircle America. He soon started winning—in North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Georgia—with the promise that he would save the country from its supposed downward spiral. Although he ultimately lost the nomination to Ford, who in turn lost the general election to Jimmy Carter, Reagan’s discovery set the course for his successful 1980 campaign. As William F. Buckley, Jr., observed, Reagan’s rhetoric and defense policy proposals hit on the fact that Americans were “tired of being pushed around.”

Read the whole story here: Lessons from the Nuclear Freeze | Boston Review

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