The Resurgence of Conservatism 1980 – 1996
The Triumph of Conservatism • By 1980, many Americans were frustrated by Jimmy Carter’s mismanagement. • Inflation was in double-digits, interest rates had sky-rocketed and the Iranians held America hostage.
The Democratic Primary • The ABC movement (Anybody But Carter) was looking to find a liberal Democrat to challenge the increasingly conservative Carter.
They found their champion in Teddy Kennedy, the last surviving Kennedy brother.
The Kennedy challenge was hampered by suspicions from the 1969 automobile accident at Chappaquidick.
Reagan Republicans • Ronald Reagan, former governor of California and darling of the “New Right” and “Moral Majority” won the Republican nomination.
Reagan was able to bring together the old fiscal conservatives and the new social conservatives that championed “Family Values” over the “promiscuity” of the counterculture.
School Busing • The issue of desegregation exploded in the late 1970s.
The Supreme Court ruled in Milliken v. Bradley that school desegregation plans could not require children to be moved across school district boundaries. • This increased the “white flight” to the suburbs.
It also left the burden of school desegregation on the poorer inner city school districts. • Areas like south Boston were racked by racial violence.
Affirmative Action • White workers and students began to complain about “reverse discrimination.” • In Bakke v. The University of California the Supreme Court ruled that preference for admission could not be given for racial or ethnic identity alone.
Moral Majority • Pro-Life • School Prayer • Anti-Evolution • Evangelical Politics =Christian Coalition Ralph Reed
The Election of Ronald Reagan • Reagan tapped into the growing resentment against “big government” and the “social engineering” of the New Deal and Great Society.
He became the new champion of the “forgotten man” and preached a populist crusade against the evils of federal intervention in local affairs.
Neo-Conservatives • Reagan was influenced by the writings of the a group of conservatives from Commentary and The Public Interest that attacked government bureaucracy and the evils of the Soviet Union.
Ronald Reagan the Actor • Reagan would be known as “The Great Communicator” and he used his acting skills and movie idol good looks to political advantage.
Reagan Wins Big • With Chappaquiddick killing Kennedy’s challenge and Carter’s colorless performance and weak record, Reagan with only 51% of the popular vote but 489 to 49 electoral votes. • Independent John Anderson was able to win 7% of the vote.
Carter was the first elected president to be unseated in an election since Herbert Hoover in 1932.
And the Republican were able to gain control of the Senate for the first time in 25 years.
In the last days of his term Carter signed a bill preserving 100 million acres of Alaskan wilderness.
The Reagan Revolution • Reagan’s inauguration was made even more triumphant by the announcement that the American hostages had been released in Iran.
“The Best and the Rightest” • Reagan’s cabinet was very conservative and often controversial.
"I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent." • James Watt, the secretary of the Interior, was accused of being in cahoots with the “sagebrush rebellion” and oil industry. • He will be forced to resign after telling a racist joke in public.
"If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."
“The government is the problem” • Reagan’s message of smaller government found a receptive audience in American’s who had watched federal spending increase from 18 to 23% of GNP. • People began to balk at spending tax dollars for social welfare entitlements.
Proposition 13 • Californians fired the first shot in the tax revolt with the passage of prop 13 that slashed property taxes and forced government cutbacks.
Reagan Cuts • Reagan worked with the Republican Senate and wooed the southern conservative “Boll Weevil” Democrats to cut $35 billion in federal social programs.
Reagan Shot • March 30, 1981, John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan as he emerged from a Washington hotel.
12 days later sixty nine year old Reagan walked out of the hospital and received enormous public support and sympathy.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady and two law enforcement officers. • Hinckley said the shooting was an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster.
The Reagan Budget • Reagan was able to get Congress to agree to a $695 billion dollar budget that would increase defense spending and make drastic cuts in welfare, while creating a $38 billion deficit.
Reagan Tax Cut • Reagan then announced that he wanted a 25% across-the-board reduction of taxes to be phased in over three years. New Sheriff in Town
Supply Side Economics • Reagan’s financial advisers were convinced that cuts in capital gains, IRAs for small investors and budget cuts would stimulate the economy and lead to increased federal revenue.
The Reagan Recession • In 1982 unemployment hit 11 percent, businesses folded and banks went under. • The automobile industry hit rock bottom and Democrats charged the Reagan cuts had hit the poorest Americans the hardest.
In reality, the recession forces felt in the early 1980s were caused by the “tight money” policies of the Federal Reserve under Carter.
Reaganomics and Recovery • By 1983 the economy began to turn around and the “supply-siders” seemed to be vindicated. • But the 1980s also saw the first increases in the gap between rich and poor during the 20th century.
YUPPIES • Symbolic of the increasing wealth of the upper classes were the Young Urban Professionals or Yuppies with their Rolex watches and BMWs.
Defense Spending • Most economists believe that the growth in GNP was stimulated by the nearly 2 trillion dollars of defense spending in the 1980s. • To pay for the massive military build-up, budget deficits ran nearly $200 billion every year in the 1980s.
Rising Interest Rates • Government borrowing kept interest rates high which elevated the value of the US dollar. • High dollar values helped US tourists and kept foreign cars cheap, but crippled American exporters. • The US trade deficit reached a record $152 billion in 1987.
Reagan and the Cold War • Reagan condemned the USSR which he called “a evil empire” and believed in negotiating from a position of strength.
Bankrupting the Soviets • Reagan believed that by increasing defense spending the Soviets would have to play catch up and while our economy could withstand the strain, theirs could not.
Star Wars • Reagan called for the creation of a space based missile shield and laser defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
Many physicists said the program was impossible at the current level of technology • The cost and concerns over the viability of the program limited Congressional funding.
Solidarity • When Soviets and their allied Polish Communists clamped down on the rising labor movement in Poland, called Solidarity, Reagan imposed embargos on both nations.