-A Personal Reminiscence-
It was a warm spring afternoon when, in the company of the late and much-missed Professor Paddy O’Brien, I swooped gleefully upon the offices of the American Consulate in Perth, Western Australia.
It was Tuesday the 4th of November 1980 and the makings of a splendid party were very much in evidence in the suite of offices occupied by the Consul and his staff. Petit fours
and sandwiches, crates of beer and wine, champagne on ice, several televisions, framed photographs of the smiling President under balloons and bunting and a couple of placards exhorting the viewer to vote Democrat. Thus was an office of public service ever
so politically neutral!
Taking pride of place and stretched out across one internal wall was a monster map of the ‘States, bleeding red
texture pen across its entirety.
Clustered around the televisions were grim faced staffers; there were some tears; desultory conversation mingled
with groans of despair and disbelief as the reality of the election outcome began to sink in.
There were a handful of outsiders.
Some of the regular cocktail party crowd; a couple of business men, a few freeloaders and then there was us. Paddy and I from the University staff and as friends of the Consulate had been invited, so we brought along a little crowd. Indeed, without us it would
have been a most skeletal as well as dismal do.
The Consul and his staff were decent well-meaning people, of whom we were genuinely fond. But
to man and monkey they were card carrying liberals – read Democrats. We were there to experience their predictable lamentations concomitant to the rout we already knew was happening – Paddy, who had recently returned from a twelve month Sabbatical
at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, had spent much of the early afternoon on the phone from the ’States.
We were witness to an historical
occasion, the denouement of that sickening period of 1970s American cringe and the introduction of the decade that was to see America reach the apogee of its greatness. We were witness to the day that Ronald Reagan defied the pundits and, sweeping
all before him, consigned the egregious Jimmy Carter to the well-deserved trash-can of oblivion. Reagan’s victory was as complete as it was sweet. Despite the pundits and polls he defeated Carter by 489 Electoral College votes to 49. [Carter carried
only six states and the District of Columbia!]. Surging on his success the Republicans won the Senate for the first time in twenty-nine years. It was indeed a humiliation for the truly awful Carter and his coterie of incompetents and limp-wristers.
Reagan had been subject to all manner of disapprobation by the liberal press and pundits to the universal theme of “how could an ‘actor’
ever become a President?” The irony that the incumbent was a peanut farmer seemed lost on them. Reagan was to become one of America’s great presidents. He restored confidence and self-esteem to a country brutally-bruised after its Viet-Nam experience,
Watergate, the Teheran hostage crisis and by the general sneering of the international community. He united Americans; he provided leadership and direction and, in partnership with the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, brought about the final collapse of European
Communism. Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy became, not only a couple well-beloved of the American people, but one of America’s universally acclaimed statesmen. Not bad for a so-called B-Grade actor.
If Trump takes a few tips from the ‘Gipper’, the coming few years will prove to be most interesting indeed.
Meanwhile, back at the party in St George’s Terrace, I happily munched my way through a plate of particularly tasty vol au vents. I distinctly remember the fresh mushroom filling …..