'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday, 4 July 2011

Reagan '84 - 'It's morning in America again'. The greatest political ad ever made?

I thought the day the Reagan statue was unveiled would be an opportune moment to revisit what is generally agreed to be the most effective political TV commercial ever produced, 'It's morning in America again', which ran in the Reagan '84 re-election campaign.

A few thoughts about it. It's not aged well. It is (to coin a phrase) 'hideously white' - in fact its notable for the gobsmacking avoidance of any reference to any minority at all. It employs a bucketload of stereotypes - there's even a white picket fence.And a commercial that's ostensibly about economic recovery also contains a fair dollop of social engineering (for example getting married = success). So it's easy to mock.

Despite all this, let's not forget, as Shane Greer has pointed out at Total Politics, that:

"...when it came to his re-election, Reagan’s victory was all the more convincing (than in 1980): he secured 525 electoral college votes to Walter Mondale’s 13, carried 49 states and secured a popular vote majority of almost 17 million!"

And this commercial neatly encapsulates the message of that entire campaign, and indeed continues to be credited with playing a large part in Reagan's victory.

Interestingly, the tone and structure was copied by Hilary Clinton in her campaign to be the Democratic candidate in 2007 - the echoes are spooky - and deliberate.

I heard Reagan speak in Washington in 1987. I didn't actually agree with a lot of what he said that day - it was one of those tub thumpers on the steps of The Capitol aimed at an entirely American audience - but even so, and even though it was when his powers were waning, he still knew how to hold a huge audience in his hand. It was quite an experience.

So while many don't remember Reagan with any fondness - I have to admit, I can't help but admire his ability to unite a nation. And commercials like this one, love it or hate it, show us how he did it.


Charlotte at Virtually Naked has posted a copy of Hague's speech at the unveiling; something of a corker by all accounts..


  1. Drew Westen dissects Reagan's ad in his book "The Political Brain", essential reading for all who want to know how to campaign effectively. Westen reckons Bill Clinton made a better ad though.

  2. thanks - which Clinton ad did Westen mean? I'll look it up.

  3. I don't have his book to hand, but it was the ad where Clinton said he comes from Hope, Arkansas, and the tacit theme of the whole ad is hope.

  4. Hi I do remember the clinton ad but can only find a not very good copy of a 10 minute film on you tube - sure there's a better version somewhere. i'll keep looking - and thanks for the tip