The Conservative Resurgence
1980 – Present
The Reagan Administration:
- By 1980 Conservative politics were becoming a powerful force in America.
- This New Right was concerned with the size of government and its role in the economy.
- One such group was the Moral Majority, led by Rev. Jerry Falwell, who wanted to follow the
dictates of the Bible and revive the traditional values that had strengthened the country before.
- Falwell and others adopted the T.V. in a format that became known as televangelism
where they appealed to viewers to contribute money to their campaign.
Campaign for president 1980:
- Regan criticized the big government solutions of the Democrats.
- Criticized the loss of U.S. prestige abroad
- Pointed to a “misery index” of 28 (rate of inflation added to the rate of unemployment)
Election of 1980:
Republicans: Ronald Reagan
Democrats: Jimmy Carter
- The “Misery Index” of 28
- hostages were still in Iran
- Reagan continually asked the question: - “Are you better off now than you were four years
- The Election of 1980 was a landslide for the man from California, Ronald Reagan.
- Reagan won 489 to 49.
- A new era for America had begun.
- Reagan – former actor – very good speaker – charming – sophisticated – former president of Screen
Actors Guild – actually testified to the HUAC – wonderful leader.
- Analysts marked the 1980 election as the end of a half century of Democratic dominance of Congress.
- His main goal was to spur business growth.
- His economic program, dubbed Reaganomics, rested on the theory of supply-side economics.
- Supply Side Economics = it focused not on the demand for goods but on the supply of goods.
It predicted that cutting taxes would put more money into the hands of businesses and investors
– those who supplied the goods for consumers to buy.
- Supply side tax cuts would lead to increased investment by the private sector and lead to increased production,
jobs, and prosperity
- Many compared it to the trickle down economics of the 20s.
- His first priority was a tax cut.
- In his second term he passed the most sweeping tax reform in history.
- 25% decrease in personal income taxes over 3 years.
- Worked on cutting costs such as food stamps, student loans, and mass transportation.
- Continued the policy of deregulation and followed up on the promise of “getting government off the backs of the
people” by reducing federal regulations on business and industry.
- Yuppies = Young urban professionals enjoyed higher incomes and material benefits from a deregulated
- Widened the income gap between rich and poor.
- Middle class did not grow.
- Tax cuts combined with increases in military spending were creating federal deficits of over $200 billion a year.
- Over the course of Reagan’s two terms national debt tripled from about $900 billion to almost $2.7
- Sandra Day O’Connor = first female justice
- Antonin Scalia
- Anthony Kennedy
- William Rehnquist = new Supreme Court Justice
Election of 1984:
- Reagan faced Walter Mondale and his VP Candidate Geraldine Ferraro of New York
- She was the first female VP candidate.
Reagan and the Cold War:
- He believed in a tough approach to what he called the “evil empire” ….the Soviet Union. And declared
communists the “focus of evil in the modern world”
- He ordered a buildup of the military.
- Over 5 years the U.S. spent over 1 trillion dollars on defense.
- Began development of B-1 bomber.
- In 1984 he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) popularly known as Star Wars.
- The Star Wars program proposed a creation of a massive satellite shield in space to intercept and
destroy incoming Soviet missiles.
Marines In Lebanon:
- In 1982 Reagan sent several thousand marines to Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, to help keep the peace in the
- In October, a terrorist truck loaded with explosives crashed through the gates of the marines barracks
and killed 241 marines.
- By the following February all troops were back home.
Reagan and Libya:
- On April 14, 1986, Reagan ordered air attacks against the leader of Libya, General Momar Qaddafi who had
sponsored terrorist attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets in Europe.
Invasion of Grenada:
- In October 1983, we invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada to overthrow a new Communist government.
Other Issues Under Reagan:
- One of Reagan’s greatest legacies is the fact that he brought back a sense of patriotism to the United States.
- The 1984 Olympic Games were held in L.A., the first time in our country in 50 years.
- The Soviet Union boycotted.
- AIDS began to spread during the 1980s.
- Most victims used intravenous drugs or were homosexual.
- 1981 he selected the first woman Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.
- April 12, 1981 the first space shuttle, the Columbia went into space.
- January 28, 1986 the Challenger exploded in midair less than two minutes after takeoff.
- The crew included Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire.
- S & Ls loaned money to individuals to build houses.
- Many officials of the S&Ls took advantage of easier laws and made huge fortunes for
themselves, costing investors billions of dollars.
- Taxpayers had to make up the billions of dollars when many S&Ls failed.
- The Reagan administration sought to keep communist out of Nicaragua.
- Working through the CIA, the U.S. trained and supported guerillas known as Contras to fight
against the ruling group known as the Sandinistas.
- When Congress found out about the secret training they put a stop to it.
- However, some members of the Reagan administration wanted it to
continue. These officials took the profits from secret arms sales to Iran and
then sent the profits to the Contras. The arms sales were meant to encourage
the release of American hostages held in Lebanon.
- When the secret actions became public, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver
North took the blame.
- The Iran-Contra Affair caused the most serious criticism
that the Reagan administration had faced
Reagan and Gorbachev:
- Reagan developed a close relationship with the new leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.
- Gorbachev proposed a program of:
1) glasnost (political openness to end political repression and move toward greater political
freedom for Soviet citizens)
2) perestroika (restructuring – allow limited free enterprise.)
- The two also agreed on the INF Treaty. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty signed
in 1987 provided for the destruction of about 2,500 Soviet and American missiles in Europe.
- “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall”
- October 19, 1987 the Stock market suffered a severe crash.
- Although the stock market would recover, President George H. W. Bush inherited many economic
- Reagan’s presidency made many Americans feel confident for the first time since the Kennedy years.
The George H. W. Bush Administration:
- In his campaign in 1988 Bush promised “Read my lips . . .no new taxes”.
- Bush proclaimed at the end of the Cold War that it was the dawn of a “New World Order” where the strong
would respect the rights of the weak”
- He hoped it would be a more peaceful time in the world.
Collapse of Soviet Communism and Soviet Union:
- In China during the spring of 1989, prodemocracy students demonstrated for freedom in Beijing’s Tiananmen
- TV cameras from the West broadcast the democracy movement around the world.
- Under cover of night, the Chinese communist government crushed the protest with tanks,
killing hundreds and ending the brief flowering of an open political environment in China.
- Bush’s nonconfrontational stance upset many people who believed he was indifferent
to human rights to China.
- Bush and Gorbachev met in 1989 and 1990 for the START I. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty called for a
dramatic reduction in the two nation’s supplies of long range nuclear weapons.
- Reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 10,000 for each side.
- START II = reduced the number of nuclear weaons to just over 3,000 each.
- November 9, 1989 the East German government announced that East Germans could travel freely to West
- Citizens joyfully smashed the Berlin Wall down.
- Within a month, the communist party began to collapse.
- October 1990, East and West Germany were unified once again.
Breakup of the Soviet Union:
- In August 1991, conservative Communists staged a coup and held Gorbachev hostage in Russia hoping to force
him to resign.
- The coup collapsed, but it led to many of the Soviet Union’s smaller republics to move toward
- On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned.
- The Soviet Union was no more.
- The Cold War was over….the U.S. had won the war….and now only one
superpower existed in the world.
- The Soviet Union was replaced by the CIS – the Commonwealth of Independent States.
- Russia’s new president was Boris Yeltsin.
Bush and Panama:
- In 1989 Bush launched a lightning attack on Panama to take control of Manuel Noriega who was
smuggling cocaine into the United States.
Operation Desert Storm:
- In August 1990 Saddam Hussein launched an attack against Kuwait.
- Bush viewed the protection of oil reserves in Kuwait as a matter of national security.
- The U.S. working with the United Nations mobilized an alliance of 28 nations to launch the
Persian Gulf War. The war’s purpose was to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
- A series of air strikes known as Operation Desert Storm was launched on January 16
and 17 of 1991. UN forces, directed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General
Colin Powell and led by General Norman Schwarzkopf, liberated Kuwait in just six
weeks of war.
- Bush’s leadership in the war pushed his approval rating to nearly 90%.
Other Issues Under Bush:
- 1990 – ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act – prohibited discrimination against citizens with physical and
mental disabilities in hiring, transportation, and pubic accommodation.
- 1991 he nominated Conservative black judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace Thurgood
- Thomas had to deal with charges of past sexual harassment from Anita Hill.
- The same year in order to fuel the economy he raised taxes, breaking his 1988 promise of no new taxes.
- This doomed Bush for reelection in 1992.
- 1992- 27th Amendment – First proposed in 1789 by James Madison.
- Amendment prohibited members of Congress from raising their own salaries.
- Future raises could not go into effect until the next session of Congress.
- Very strong anti-incumbent mood.
- A stagnant economy, huge budget deficits, and political deadlock fueled a growing disillusionment with
government, especially as practiced in the nation’s capital.
- American politics became more divided, bitter, and scandal driven.
The Clinton Administration:
Election of 1992:
- The election of 1992 saw George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot.
- Perot would be the most effective 3rd party candidate in history.
- 20% of the vote went to Perot.
- Arkansas governor Bill Clinton won the election on promises to end the recession.
- Many critics argued that Clinton would say whatever was necessary regardless of truth to win the
election. (Slick Willie)
- Clinton became known as the “comeback kid” because of his refusal to quit when behind.
Clinton’s First Term:
- Use of wife Hilary Rodham Clinton to push universal health coverage backfired.
- Brady Handgun Bill – 5 day waiting period on purchase of handguns.
- Signed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
- Created a free trade zone with Canada and Mexico.
Republicans Take Congress:
- 1994 seeing weakness in the Clinton Administration Republicans seized the opportunity and won the midterm
elections in Congress.
- Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years since 1954.
- They accomplished this by promoting their “Contract with America” under the leadership of
- It was a pledge to scale back the role of the federal government, cut taxes, and
balance the budget.
Clinton’s Second Term:
- U.S. enjoyed the longest peacetime economic expansion in its history.
- Technological innovations in computers, the Internet, and E-commerce fueled this growth.
Scandals under Clinton:
- 1996 Clinton faced criticism in what came to be known as the Whitewater Affair.
- He was accused of having taken part in fraudulent loans and land deals in Arkansas and used his power
as Governor to block investigations into the affair.
- 1998 special prosecutor Kenneth Starr began to investigate Clinton’s relationship with an intern named Monica
- Under oath he denied having sexual relations with her. Eventually however he admitted having an
inappropriate relationship and having misled his family and country.
- December 19, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton on charges of perjury
and obstruction of justice.
- Two months later the Senate voted to acquit the President.
- He was only the second president to ever be impeached.
Clinton Foreign Policies:
- The first deaths of U.S. soldiers in humanitarian missions during the Clinton Administration came in the civil
war in Somalia in 1993.
- He promised in his 1992 campaign to deal strongly with Bosnia where ethnic cleansing was taking place.
- In 1995 American led NATO began a bombing campaign against Bosnia to lead to peace talks.
- In 1999 we launched a series of air strikes against Serbia which forced leader Slobodan
Milosevic to allow peacekeepers into the region.
- 1993 a bomb exploded in the garage of the World Trade Center killing 6 and injuring over 1000.
- However, the towers stood.
- 1995 an explosion outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people.
- This turned out to be an act of domestic terrorism committed by Timothy McVeigh.
- He was executed in 2001
- 1998 bombs at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed over 200 people.
- 2000 terrorists attacked the USS Cole killing 17 American sailors.
- Osama bin Laden was behind this and the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.
- North Korea began to step up its nuclear reactor and missile programs.
- 1995 – 20 years after the fall of Saigon, U.S. established diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
The George W. Bush Administration:
Election of 2000:
- The Election of 2000 saw Vice President Al Gore versus Texas Governor George W. Bush.
- The race was so close it came down to the state of Florida.
- In a controversial decision the Supreme Court had to decide the fate of the election due to the
numerous recounts that were taking place in Florida.
- In the case of Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court decided that the recounts must
stop…this decision therefore made George W. Bush the next president of the United
- Bush wanted to focus on domestic issues such as education.
- He got the major No Child Left Behind Act passed early in his administration.
September 11, 2001:
- September 11, 2001 changed the focus of George W. Bush’s administration.
- America was attacked in New York City and Washington D.C.
- 266 passengers lost their lives.
- 180 died at the Pentagon
- Approximately 2,800 died in the World Trade Centers
War in Afghanistan:
- The attacks of 9-11 led directly to America fighting in Afghanistan.
- On October 7, 2001 we launched attacks against the Taliban in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring
- “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make, either you are with us or you are
with the terrorists”
- After the attacks Bush also created the Office of Homeland Security.
- The leader would be Tom Ridge.
Bush Doctrine and War in Iraq:
- Bush later declared that the U.S. could now allow dangerous regimes to threaten the U.S. with the world’s most
- This would be the beginning of the Bush Doctrine which would be that the U.S. could take offensive
military actions to protect itself.
- In Iraq, Saddam Hussein refused to allow UN inspectors into his country.
- October 2002 Congress authorized the President to use force against Iraq.
- Bush began buildup of what he called a “coalition of the willing”.
- The war called Operation Iraqi Freedom started on March 19, 2003.
- Hussein was out of power, but the insurgency that followed caused a decrease in Bush’s
- The insurgency led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi caused problems for the U.S. military.
- Condoleeza Rice = African American woman Secretary of State.
Bush and Supreme Court:
- 2004 and 2005 Bush nominated John Roberts as Chief Justice and Samuel Alito as a justice on the Supreme
Midterm Elections 2006:
- Democrats take back Congress in 2006 due to controversy over the war.
- 2000 census revealed that Latinos surpassed African Americans as the country’s largest minority.
- The “graying of America” is causing problems with Social Security.