In 1966, former TV and movie actor and SAG President Ronald Reagan announced his intentions to run for Governor of California. Reagan, who created stir at the 1964 Republican Convention was viewed as a highly viable candidate for their party in the future. He had the name recognition, he was politically involved and he was aligned with the Goldwater brand of Republicanism, which was taking hold within the party. And as political stepping-stones were concerned, being governor of a state like California had a certain legitimacy and cache that could serve well, come time to consider taking the next step and go for the White House.
This interview, from Meet The Press on January 9, 1966, Reagan is grilled and asked questions which many outside political circles were probably asking; an Actor as Governor of California? One of the biggest states in the union? Was he experienced? Why did he want to run? Why did he choose Governor and not Mayor or City Council?
These were questions many people asked in California in 1966. The idea of an actor being in high political office seemed far-fetched. But to many, just far-fetched enough to be possible. Reagan was running on the assumption that what he represented was the rank-and-file of the citizenry. He expressed the opinion that the political divisions in the country were so great (even in 1966) that he felt it incumbent to consider a run for Governor, as he put it; “it was high time that more people involved themselves, so that the concept of for and by the people had new meaning”. He was also running in opposition to what he called “big government”, which he felt California was overwhelmed with and he was of the opinion that government needed to be considerably smaller.
In a nutshell, this was what Candidate Reagan was about in 1966. He had only declared his intention to run a week earlier. The campaign hadn’t gotten started yet – there were still primaries. But it gives a good idea of what was to come down the road.
It all started someplace.