Reagan's Paid Political Advertisements, Page Two
The second Reagan commercial that will be examined is "President Reagan: Leadership that's Working." Like the previously outlined commercial, this spot features a narrative over a montage of images. Unlike the last commercial, though, the narrator in this spot is not President Reagan. Instead, it is a man with a deep, warm, reassuring voice. The spoken narrative of the commercial is:
It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to Work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?
Clearly there is a message in the spoken text, even without taking the rest of the commercial into account. By reminding Americans (again) of the position the country was in before Reagan's election, the commercial is implying that Reagan was successful for turning the nation around. The image associated with it being "morning again in America" is of the sunrise. Of course, the brilliant light of the sunrise is always preceded by the darkness of night. Thus, the dark night is in danger of returning if a Democrat is elected to the presidency. Interest rates - the only issue that occurs in the commercial more than once - are raised as another specter associated with a Democratic White House. In a clear sense, this commercial really functions as a successful attack ad. Mondale was vice-president under Carter, when interest rates soared in this country. So by referencing the days of horrible interest rates, the spot is also signifying that Mondale represents a regressive step towards the nation's past. The previous commercial - "Ronald Reagan: Prepared for Peace" - featured clear references to the Iranian hostage crisis. Again this is an implicit attack on Mondale who was vice-president during the crisis.
The positive factors cited in the commercial are quite enlightening. Obviously cutting interest rates in half was a clear success for the administration. However, the fact that 6,500 "young" couples get married each day is quite irrelevant to the presidency. There is no evidence that suggests people decided when to get married based upon who is holding the presidency. Also the fact that these couples are "young" helps to associate youth in a positive way with Reagan, who clearly suffers from an age gap in regards to his opponent.
In addition to the spoken text of the commercial, there is also background music used to create a mood. In this spot, the music relates to the feeling of a "new morning." It is dominated by stringed instruments, and is simple, lilting, mellow, and sparse at times. The music clearly signifies hope. Thus, there is a clear relationship between the spoken and musical texts.
Finally, there is a visual text in this commercial as well. It opens with a boat sailing in an urban harbor.
This first shot is clearly set in the morning, because the first rays of the rising sun are reflected in the water. This helps to establish the mood in the commercial and also sets up the notion of "morning" before the tag line "It's morning again in America" is spoken. The next three cuts are a man in a suit stepping out of a taxi, a man on a tractor, and a young person delivering a newspaper in a suburb.
As the newspaper delivery person's bike rides out of the picture, a man walks across the camera's view, and gets in a car. These three shots correspond to the line about more people going to "work than ever before in our country's history," and show that this prosperous employment cuts across all three demographic settings: urban, rural, and suburban. Again, this is an example of using television to create truth. This advertisement presents an idealized view of idyllic middle class America, which diverges significantly from reality. There is plenty of evidence - although often it was disputed by the Reagan administration - that more people were unemployed than had been since World War II.
The next image is of a station wagon pulling into park on a suburban curb.
The station wagon is very similar visually to the one that was used in the previous scene. One might assume it was the same car, until he or she noticed that this car was pulling a trailer. Then in the next scene, a couple walks across the camera's frame, carrying a rolled up carpet. The spoken text accompanying this image is the segment that deals with more people buying houses.
The next visual is of an old woman sitting in a church.
She's wearing a corsage, which clearly indicates an intimate relationship with the bride and groom who walked by her; one can quite easily assume she is the mother of the bride or groom. The next shot is of the couple about to be married standing at the altar, followed by a cut to the bride's beaming smile, the couple kissing, and finally a shot of them bounding down the steps outside the church, while all the attendees of the wedding throw rice at them. An image of the bride rushing up to hug the older woman follows this.
The spoken narrative accompanying this section talks about inflation, marriage, and - finally when the bride is hugging the older woman - looking forward with confidence to the future.
The image of the bride hugging the older woman that closed the marriage segment, slowly dissolves into a shot of the US Capitol building.
The shot of the Capitol is held for a few moments, as the underlying music rises to a brief crescendo. After this, the next few images are the flag hoisting montage that also appeared in the "Ronald Reagan: Prepared for Peace" commercial.
Unlike that commercial, though, this montage ends with a prolonged shot of the American flag waving. The shot is held long enough that the entire ending question - "Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?" - is spoken while the flag is shown. This shot than slowly fades to black, accompanied by a similar fade out of the music, indicating the end of the commercial. The spoken text accompanying the flag montage suggests that America is once again a "strong" country. This is reinforced by the delight the people viewing and raising the flag clearly feel.
The final slate of the commercial reads: "President Reagan / Leadership That's Working."
Unlike the previous commercial, this slate features a photo of Reagan. The picture shows Reagan in the Oval Office, standing next to a flag on a flagpole. The overwhelming use of the flag in the close of the commercial and then its reappearance next to Reagan on the final slate, clearly signifies a relationship between the flag - and therefore America - and Reagan.