12 October 2017
Ronald Reagan’s speech and political theories
There are numerous political communication concepts that exist in the political science
field of study which can all be used in the analysis of different works that have been brought
forth by political leaders either in their speeches or other forms of written works. This paper
seeks to analyze the annunciation of candidacy reelection speech by the fortieth president of
America Ronald William Reagan based on the political legitimacy concept.
Political legitimacy concept
Although there are many political communication theories, this paper examines the
political legitimacy theory, which is basically a virtue of political institutions and the decisions
pertaining laws and policies of candidates of political offices that are formulated in these
political institutions. The term legitimacy refers to acceptance or recognition of a certain
authority not only to its subjects but also to other relevant and external authorities as well.
Political legitimacy is associated with the justification of coercive power and creation of
a political authority, authority in this case being the ability to rule or issue commands, and could
be extended to enforcing these commands using coercive power. Political legitimacy influences
obligation to obey political authority. Although some people may argue that a legitimate political
authority does not determine the willingness to obey commands, it is relevant that an accepted
authority shall have most of the people adhering to its political commands.
To determine these beliefs on political authority and political obligations, political
legitimacy is interpreted descriptively. Different sociologists such as Max Weber evaluated this
theory of political communication as being based on beliefs, since the whole idea of a political
regime legitimacy is based on the faith that people have held in regard to that regime. The
willingness to oblige to the political regime is also based on belief. He also goes ahead to explain
that the acceptance of an authority and the need to obey its commands is influenced by tradition,
charismatic leaders or just the trust of an authority’s legality.
When evaluated according to the normative concept, political legitimacy is defined as the
acceptance and justification of a relevant authority or political regime with only the possibility of
political obligation but not a guarantee as in the descriptive concept of Max Weber. In this
concept, the legitimacy of a political authority and the possibility of an obligation to their
political commands depends on the justification of the coercive political power.
This concept, therefore, argues that an authority can be effective, even when it is not
legitimate and on the other hand, a legitimate authority can issue commands, which the subjects
are not obliged to obey (Fernando, & Lawrence, 2014). This basically means that unlike in the
descriptive concept where legitimacy goes hand in hand with political obligation, the normative
concept views legitimacy and political obligation as separate entities, with legitimacy being
linked to justice or justification of the political power a certain authority applies.
Political legitimacy normative concept has been analyzed severally in attempt to
determine the distinction between legitimacy and justice and evaluate the relationship between
the two. When the difference between legitimacy and justice is blurred, literature argues that
although there are many unjust authorities, only a just authority is morally acceptable and thus
legitimate (Habermas, 2015). This is because the justification of the political power exercised is
appealing to the subjects and they accept the authority in power.
However, there are other explanations that give a distinction between legitimacy and
justice. Such are the realist theory of political science which argues that although the two are
related, they have different domains and legitimacy makes weaker demands than justice. The
theory also points out that an authority may be legitimate but unjust. Political legitimacy is a
political communication theory that attempts to bring to the surface the thoughts of different
analysts so as to explain the difference between effective authority and legitimate authority
Ronald Reagan’s announcement for candidacy speech
On the twenty-ninth of January the year nineteen eighty-four, Ronald Regan gave his
speech to the nation announcing the Reagan- Bush candidacy for reelection as the fortieth
president of the United States of America. In his speech, Reagan spoke of the far they had come
together as the American nation and the special bond of kinship that he developed with each one
of the American citizens (Troy, 2013).
Based on his first inaugural speech on the twentieth of January the year nineteen eightyone when he said that the government is not the solution to the country’s problems but the cause,
Reagan looked back recalling the state in which the country was when he up took the office of
president. He spoke of the economic strains due to the depression, the weakness of the country’s
defense forces as well as the humiliation they suffered. He also spoke of the issue of taxation and
the interest rates which had really affected the costs of living.
Reagan in his speech of reelection also spoke of the improvements that his government
had made in lowering inflation, reducing the interest rates by almost half, catering for housing at
affordable costs as well as the creation of numerous job opportunities. The control of sending by
the government and the maintenance of peace in the country and emphasis on religion are also
other improvements that his government had made. However, Reagan viewed his work as not yet
complete and for this reason, he sought reelection from the American citizens.
Application of political legitimacy theory in Reagan’s speech
In his speech, Reagan addressed certain issues that pertain the political legitimacy theory
of political communication. For instance, when he spoke of the way the Americans met Dr.
Warren’s challenge of acting worthy of themselves to make America great as he had requested in
his inaugural speech shows the willingness to obey this political obligation. Reagan then went
ahead to praise the Americans for supporting him in pulling America out of its nightmare by
which he portrayed legitimacy of his government through the support he received from the
Looking at both the normative and descriptive concepts of the political legitimacy theory
of political communication, the legitimacy of a government is connected to the citizens’
willingness to oblige to political obligations. This aspect is definite in Reagan’s speech when he
expressed that the government had managed to solve most of the issues that the country was
facing by the time Ronald Reagan assumed the office of the president. Such include attaining the
dignity of work, the warmth of family as well as the strength of neighborhood.
The other relation that there is between Ronald’s speech and the political legitimacy
theory is that justice has a very close relation to legitimacy. In his speech, Reagan pointed out the
nourishment of human freedom, which basically means that his government allowed justice for
the American citizens, thus they found Reagan’s government morally acceptable thus legitimate.
The development of kinship feeling is also an evidence that there was moral acceptance of the
government by the American citizens, thus willingness to develop America.
In conclusion, there is a great relationship between Ronald’s speech and the political
legitimacy theory in the aspect of acceptance of and working in association with the government
by the citizens.
Fernando, S., & Lawrence, S. (2014). A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR CSR
PRACTICES: INTEGRATING LEGITIMACY THEORY, STAKEHOLDER THEORY,
AND INSTITUTIONAL THEORY. Journal of Theoretical Accounting Research, 10(1).
Habermas, J. (2015). Inclusion of the other: Studies in political theory. John Wiley & Sons.
Scharpf, F. W. (2015). Political legitimacy in a non-optimal currency area. Democratic politics in
a European union under stress, 20-44.
Troy, G. (2013). Morning in America: how Ronald Reagan invented the 1980's. Princeton
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