1980-THE RESURGENCE OF CONSERVATIVE POLITICS
The 1970s- Nixon/Ford showed a beginning of a shift to the right- away from the
liberalism of the 60s.
1973- California voters led the revolt against high taxes by passing Proposition 13 that
sharply cut taxes. In Congress, two Republicans-Jack Kemp and William Roth, proposed
legislation that would cut federal taxes by 30%. These cuts would become the basis for
the Reagan tax cuts.
1980- Moral Majority- led by Jerry Falwell (Virginia evangelist) religious
fundamentalist and conservative groups too the lead in trying to make “moral decay” a
political issue. The group rated politicians/financed campaigns to unseat liberal
politicians. Phyllis Schlafly, in her organization the Eagle Forum, led a movement to
fight the ERA and give women the opportunity to take the traditional, Biblical view of
the woman’s role in society.
1973- The case Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion, sparked the right-to-life movement,
uniting Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants that continues today.
Election of 1980- Republican- Ronald Reagan- former governor of California-promised
to lower taxes/reduce gov’t spending on welfare/build up the armed forces/create a more
conservative Supreme Court.
Democrat- Jimmy Carter
Reagan took 51% of the popular vote and 91% of the electoral college-Reagan took over
50% of the blue collar vote- breaking the New Deal coalition. Republicans and
conservatives in the Democratic party gained control of both houses.
*Inaugural day- the Iranians release the 52 American hostages.
*Two moths after taking office, Reagan survives an assassination attempt.
*Supply-side economics-tax cuts and reduced gov’t spending would increase investment
by the private sector and lead to increased investment by the private sector and lead to
jobs/increased production/prosperity. (This was the opposite of Keynesian economic
favored by the Democrats of gov’t spending to boost the economy-remember FDR? This
supply-side was similar to the trickle-down theory of the 1920s- some of the increased
profit and spending of the wealthy would trickle-down to the lower classes.
*Reagan cut taxes/cut $40 billion from domestic programs/ eased up on regulations on
big business and on environmental protection/ took a tough stand on unions (led to a
decline in labor unions during the 1980s)
*1982- the country suffered the worst recession since 1930s- unemployment at 11%. The
economy began to rebound by 1983- when Reaganomics took hold. The gap between the
rich and poor grew.
*Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to Supreme Court/ Antonin Scalia/ Anthony
Kennedy- all conservative. The Court proceeded to scale back affirmative action and
allow states to put restrictions on Roe v. Wade.
*Election of 1984- Jesses Jackson- the Rainbow Coalition tried to gain the Democratic
nomination but the ticket went to Walter Mondale and his running mate- Geraldine
Ferraro. Reagan easily won (2/3 of white males voted for Reagan.)
*Reduced taxes and greater military spending led to a growth in gov’t deficit- national
debt tripled. Trade deficit grew- for the first time since WWI, the US became a debtor
FOREIGN POLICY- REAGAN
* In the early years of his administration, Reagan intensified the Cold War in his
determination to restore the military might and superpower prestige of the US. He called
the Soviets the “focus of evil in the modern world.”
*Increased spending on new weapons systems- B-1 bomber/MX missile/ increase in
Naval ships/SDI Strategic Defense Initiative- a plan to build high-tech systems of lasers
and particle beams to destroy enemy missiles (STAR WARS).
*In Central America Reagan supported right-wing dictators to keep out communists. In
Nicaragua, an attempt, using covert action, to overthrow a Marxist regime- the
Sandinistas, failed. US poured aid to the rival Contras until in 1985, Congress passed
the Boland Amendment which denied further aid.
*US supported the Salvadoran government against leftist guerillas ($5 billion).
* Grenada-Reagan sent troops to invade the island to prevent the establishment of a
strategic communist base in the Western Hemisphere (another Cuba) after a coup by a
pro-Cuba regime had taken over. The US helped to reestablish a friendly government.
*Iran-Contra Affair-A scandal involving members of Reagan’s administration which
included the US secretly supplying arms to Iran for their war with Iraq-in return for Iran’s
help in freeing US hostages held by an Arab nation- the proceeds of which were secretly
diverted to the Contras (against the Boland Amendment). Oliver North testified on live
TV- impressively defended the plan- got Reagan off the hook for any direct involvement-
and ended up years later with his own show on FOX news.
*1985- Mikhail Gorbachev became the new Soviet leader. He changed domestic policy
through GLASNOST- new openness- to end political repression- and PERESTROIKA-
restructuring of the economy to move toward free-market practices. Gorbachev had to
cut back military spending to deal with his country’s deteriorating economy. The SFI
program proposed by Reagan had been the last straw. The USSR could not keep up.
*1987- INF agreement- to destroy all intermediate-range weapons. USSR begins to pull
out of Afghanistan.
1984- Election- Republican- George Bush- (VP under Reagan)
Democrat- Michael Dukakis
*1989-Tiananmen Square- China- pro-democracy students in Beijing demonstrate in
the Square and are crushed by the government- hundreds killed.
*1989- Lech Walesa elected in Poland (had been the leader of Solidarity movement).
One country after another in eastern Europe voted out their communist government.
The Berlin Wall was torn down (Germany reunited in October 1990).
*Bush and Gorbachev signed START I- reducing the number of warheads to under
10,000. In 1992, Bush and Gorbachev’s replacement, Boris Yeltsin sign START II
which reduced the number to 3,000 each.