Proposition 13 was the official ballot title of the “tax revolt” in 1978. Due to the higher budget for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, citizens did not want to pay bills that would further extend government benefits. It slashed the property taxes, as well as forced painful cuts in government services. The California “tax quake” jolted other state capitals. It even rocked the pillars of Congress in Washington D.C. Ronald Regan rid the police shock wave to presidential victory in 1980, proceeding to rattle the “welfare state” to its foundations. The California state ballot initiative capped the state’s real estate tax at 1% of assessed value. This reduced the average property tax levels, and decreased government revenue.
Ronald Reagan usually worked harmoniously with the Republican Party in the Senate. To get his way in the Democratic House, he had to undertake some old-fashioned politicking. He enterprisingly wooed a group of mostly southern conservative Democrats. These southern conservative Democrats were called the boll weevils. They abandoned their own party’s leadership to follow the president. The new president’s political hand was further strengthened after a failed assasination attempt in March 1981, bringing an outpouring of sympathy and support. The Boll Weevils through crop diversification temporarily, and cotton prices rose.
The theory driving Reagan’s pushd for massive income-tax reductions was known as supply-side economics. Supply-siders argued that a combination of budgetary discipline and tax reduction would stimulate new investment, invigorate productivity and more. The supply-side economics would foster framatic economic growth, and eventually boost rather than deplete tax revenues. From this, the federal deficit would reduce. This method of economics would focus on the expansion of the long run supply curve. It was associated with arguments in favor of less taxes and spending as a solution to macroeconomic difficulties.
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
During this time, Reagan developed a strategy to deal with Moscow. The strategy resembled a riverboat gambler’s ploy. Reagan played his trump card in his risky game in March 1983. He announced his intention to pursue a high-technology missile-defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as Star Wars. The plan called for orbiting battle stations in space that could fire laser beams or other forms of concentrated energy to vaporize intercontinental missiles on liftoff. Reagan described SDI as offering potential salvation from the nuclear nightmare by throwing an “astrodome”defense shield over American cities. Many scientists saw this as an impossible goal. The deeper logic of SDI lay in its fit with Reagan’s overall Soviet strategy.
Central America was facing a conflict. A leftist revolution deposed the long-time dictator of Naragua in 1979. President Carter tried to ignore the hotly anti-American rhetoric of the revolutionaries, or Sandinistas. He attempted to establish good diplomatic relations with them. On the other hand, cold warrior Reagan took their rhetoric at face value and hurled back at them some hot language of his own. He accused the Sandinistas of turning their country into a forward base for Soviet and Cuban military penetration of all of Central America. Brandishing photographs taken from high-flying spy planes, administration spokespeople claimed that Nicaraguan leftists were shipping weapons to revolutionary forces in tiny El Salvador, torn by violence since a coup in 1979.
Reagan sent military “advisors” to prop up the pro-American government of El Salvador. He also provides covert aid, including the CIA-engineered mining of harbors, to the rebels opposing the anti-American government of Nicaragua. Reagan flexed his military muscles everywhere in the turbulent Caribbean. In a dramatic display of american might, in October 1983, he dispatched a heavy-firepower invasion force to the island of Grenada. They swiftly overrun the tiny island and ousted the insurgents. American troops vividly demonstrated Reagan’s determination to assert the dominance of the United States in the Caribbean, just as Theodore Roosevelt had done.
In Reagan’s first term, he aimed to shrink the federal government and reduce taxes. Soon he was contending the world’s attention with the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. He announced two policies with remarkable, even revolutionary implications. Glasnost, or “openness,” aimed at ventilating the secretive, repressive stuffiness of Soviet Society by introducing free war speech and a measure of political liberty.
Perestroika or “restructuring,” was intended to revive the moribund Soviet economy by adopting many of the free-market practices--such as the profit motive. Additionally they wanted to adopt an end to subsidized princess--of the capitalist West. Both glasnost and perestroika required that the Soviet Union shrink its size of its enormous military machine and redirect its energies to the dismal civilian economy. The requirement, in turn, necessitated an end to the Cold War.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)
In a third summit in Washington D.C in December 1987, the two leaders signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This banned all of these missiles from Europe. Reagan and Gorbachev capped their new friendship in May 1988 at a final summit in Moscow. There Reagan, who had entered office condemning the “evil empire” of Soviet communism, warmly praised Gorbache. Reagan, the consummate cold warrior, had been flexible and savvy enough to seize a historic opportunity to join the Soviet chief to bring the Cold War to a kind of conclusion. For this, history would give both leaders high marks.
The Iran-Contra affair cast a dark shadow over the Regan record on foreign policy. It tended to obscure the president’s outstanding achievement in establishing a new relationship with the Soviets. From the several Iran-Contra investigations, a picture emerged of Reagan as a lazy, perhaps even senile, president who napped through meetings and plaid little or no attention to the details of policy. Reagan’s critics pounced on this portrait as proof that the movie-star-turned-politician was a mental lightweight who had merely acted his way through the role of the presidency. He acted this way without really understanding the script. Despite these damaging revelations, Regan remained among the most popular and beloved presidents in modern American history.
In the 1980s, religion pervaded American politics. There were evangelical Christians known as the religious right. In 1979, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, an evangelical minister and the founder of Liberty University in his native Lynchburg, Virginia, launched a political advocacy group called the Moral Majority. Falwell preached with great success against sexual permissiveness, abortion, feminism, and the spread of gay rights. In its first 2 years, the Moral Majority registered between 2 million and 3 million voters. Utilizing radio, direct-mail marketing, and cable TV, Falwell and other “televangelists” reached huge audiences in the 1980s. They collected millions of dollars, and became aggressive political advocates for conservative causes.
In the late 1980s, many American banks found themselves holding nearly worthless loans that had unwisely foisted upon Third World countries, especially in Latin America. In 1984, it took federal assistance to save Continental Illinois Bank from catastrophic failure. More banks and savings institutions were folding than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A wave of mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts washed over Wall Street, leaving many brokers and traders mega-rich, and many countries saddled with mega-debt. A cold spasm of fear struck the money markets on Black Monday, October 19th, 1987. When the leading stock-market index plunged 508 points--the largest one-day decline in history to that point. This crash, said Newsweek magazine, stated that it was the final collapse of the money culture.
Operation Desert Storm
The United States and its U.N allies unleashed a hellish air attack against Iraq. For thirty-seven days, warplanes pummeled targets in occupied Kuwait and in Iraq itself, in an awesome display of high-technology, precision targeting modern warfare. Iraq responded to this pounding by launching several dozen “Scud” short-range ballistic missiles against military and civilian targets in Saudi Arabia. Finally, on February 23rd, the dreaded and long-awaited land war began. This was named Operation Desert Storm, lasting only 4 days--the “hundred-hour war”. With lightning speed, the U.N forces penetrated deep into Iraq, outflanking the occupying forces in Kuwait and blocking the enemy’s ability either to retreat or to reinforce.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
George H. W. Bush partly redeemed his pledge to work for a “kinder, gentler America'' when he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. This was a landmark law prohibiting discrimination against the 43 million U.S citizens wit physical or mental disablities. The president also signed a major water projects bill in 1992 that aimed to reform the distribution of subsidized federal water in the arid West. The bill sought to put the interest of the environment on a par with those of agriculture, especially in California’s heavily irrigated Central Valley. It also provided more water to the West’s thirsty cities.
People to Know
Ronald Reagan was well suited to lead the gathering conservative crusade. He was reared in a generation whose values were formed well before the upheavals of the 1960s. He comfortably sided with the New Right on social issues. In economic and social matters alike, he denounced the activist government and failed “social engineering”. He was an actor-turned-politician. Enjoying enormous popularity, Reagan has a crooked grin and aw-shucks manner. The son of a ne’er-do-well, impoverished Irisih American father with a fondness for the bottle, he had grown up in a small Illinois town. Reagan got his start in life in the depressed 1930s as a sports announcer for an Iowa radio station. Good looks and a way with words landed him acting jobs in Hollywood, where he became a B-grade start in the 1940s.
Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s Conservative Party leader and Prime minister in 1979. She resigned after 3 terms in 1991. In 1979, she won the general election when she became prime minister. Thatcher continued the policy of “Ulsterisation”. Her approach to Northern Ireland was influenced by Britain’s special relationship with the United States. Also, she began discussions with the Southern government because the Northern parties would not agree on proposals.
Mikhail Gorbachev was a charismatic Soviet leader. He was also the chairman of the Soviet Communist party in March 1985. He was personable, energetic, imaginative, and committed to radical reforms in the Soviet Union. He announced two policies with remarkable, and even revolutionary, implications. He pushed his goal when he met with Ronald Reagan at the first of four summit meetings, in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986. He broke down when a furious Regan stormed out, convinced that Gorbachev had come to end plans for his beloved SDI. At the third summit, both leaders signed the INF Treaty that banned all these missiles from Europe.
Saddam Husseing was the Iraqi dictator. Washington continued supporting Hussein by selling weapons used against Iran. Saddam Hussein was captured by the United States. He was found near his hometown of Tikrit, in an underground hideout in December 2003. He made great advances as vice president in Iraq. He nationalized Iraq’s oil industry, which boosted the economy. In fact, in 1989, 61% or about 39 billion US dollars of Iraq’s GDP consisted of oil. Saddam also promoted literacy and education programs along with an unrivaled public healthcare system than those of surrounding Arab countries.
Jerry Falwell was a Reverend, an evangelical minister in 1979. Also, he was the founder of Liberty University in his native Lynchburg, Virginia. He launched a political advocacy group called the Moral Majority. Falwell preached with great success against sexual permissiveness, abortion, feminism, and the spread of gay rights. In its first 2 years, the Moral Majority registered between 2 million and 3 million voters. As a televangelist and a conservative political commentator, he was known for his stance against homosexuality. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Sandra Day O’Connor
Ronald Reagan named 3 conservative-minded judges to the U.S Supreme Court. They included Sandra Day O’Connor. She was a brilliant, public-spirited Arizona judge. When she was sworn in September 25th, 1981, she became the first woman to ascend to the high bench in the Court’s nearly 200 year history. From her appointment by Reagan in 1981 to her retirement in 2006, she was the first woman to be appointed to the Court. Prior to her appointment by Reagan, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona serving as the first female Majority leader in the U.S.
George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush was born with a silver ladle in his mouth. His father served as a U.S senator from Connecticut. Young George enjoyed a first-rate education at Yale. After service in WWII, he amassed a modest fortune of his own in the oil business in Texas. His deepest commitment was to public service. He left the business world to serve briefly as a congressman, and held various posts in several Republican administrations. Administrations include the emissary to China, ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice president. He capped this long political career when he was inaugurated president in January 1989, promising to work for “a kinder, gentler America.”
Boris Yeltsin was the Russian president. He took command of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal in 1993. As one of President Bush’s final acts, he signed the START II accord with Yeltsin, which committed both powers to reduce their long-range nuclear arsenals by two-thirds within ten years. Yeltsin was the president of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 1999. His presidency was a period of time filled with widespread corruption, economic collapse, and enormous political and social problems. Yeltsin never recovered his popularity after endorsing radical economic reforms in early 1992.
Nelson Mandela was a freed African leader in 1990 that pushed for a democratic government. He served 27 years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government. Four years later, Mandela was elected South Africa’s president. Free elections in Nicaragua in February 1990 removed the leftist Sandinistas from power. After his time in jail, he became the first black president of South Africa, as well as an ANC supporter. His jail time came from the fact that he had connections to the ANC, and was released from jail when the apartheid ended.
Manuel Noriega was a dictator and drug lord. In December 1989, President Bush sent airborne troops to Panama to catch Noriega. Noriega was part of the Iran-Contra deal. It was illegal to sell arms to Iran and give money to the contras. He dealt drugs and sent the money to the contras. Manuel was taken out of the country and put on trial for drug dealing. To combat the US coming for him in 1988, he held an election and won.
Clarence Thomas was a conservative African American jurist nominated by Bush in 1991. Her nomination was loudly opposed by liberal frous, including organized labor, the NAACP, and more. The National Organization of Women opposed Thomas, Reflection irreconcilable divisions over affirmative action and abortion, the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded its hearings on the nomination with a divided seven-to-seven vote. They forwarded the matter to the full Senate without a recommendation.
Historical Thinking Questions
Towards the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States started to garner more peaceful relations. Reagan’s strategy to tame the Cold War was to negotiate with the Soviet Union. His negotiations with Soviet leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev and more led to more demilitarization of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. A long-term cause to the ending of the Soviet Union includes the Soviet Union slowly shrinking their arms, while America was becoming stronger. For instance Reagan promoted the Strategic Defense Initiative that called for orbiting battle stations in space that would fire laser beams to vaporize intercontinental missiles on liftoff. Reagan promoted this initiative to prevent any possible damage and destruction to enter the United States. Additionally, he created more peaceful relations with Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that implemented two different policies. The first policy was Glasnost, which introduced free speech and a measure of political liberty. The second policy was Perestroika which revived the Soviet economy by adopting free-market practices. These policies required the Soviet Union to shrink the size of its military machine to redirect its energies to the dismal civilian economy. Additionally, another long-term cause was more economies turned to more democratic governments. Many communist governments became tired with communism in their governments from the lack of free speech and liberties. Due to this fact, many economies started to turn more Democratic, reducing the Soviet Union’s power in the world. A short term cause of the Cold War ending was communist regimes collapsing in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Berlin Wall falling. Germans danced on top of the Berlin Wall because they hated it, and the wall soon came down that imminently ended the Cold War. The primary cause of the Cold War was the shrinking of the Soviet Union’s military because once they started to shrink their power, America would be able to exercise their strength over the Soviet Union and end the Cold War. According to Gorbashev, the nations under Communist rule “could no longer tolerate the lack of freedom, where no one could speak out or choose their own party.” There were multiple factors that led to the end of the Cold War.
During Reagan’s presidency, the Cold War was still looming, but near its end. Due to the issues relating to the “big-government” policy, Regan promoted a more conservative approach. The conservative approach included shrinking the federal government, as well as reducing the amount of taxes. During Carter’s administration, he utilized a liberal approach that ended with a faltering economy. There was galloping inflation, or stagflation that had high inflation with high unemployment. At the same time, there were sky-high interest rates. When the public saw Carter’s inability to control the inflation, they garnered a stronger appeal for Reagan and his conservative policy. Through his administration, he promoted the idea that “government is the problem”, emphasizing that the New Deal programs had an “appetite at one end, with no sense of responsibility at the other.” Due to this perception, Reagan went on a mission to push for a smaller government, less bureaucracy, and freer markets. With an ally in Britain, Margaret Thatcher, they attempted to decrease the power of labor unions and government involvement in business to shrink the government and keep nations away from communism. They did not want a similar style of government to infiltrate the U.S. At the same time, the budget for government spending was increasing, and citizens grew tired of paying large bills. Due to this response, Reagan strongly pursued $35 billion dollars in federal budget cuts, thus emphasizing supply-side economics. During this time of conservatism, political parties emerged from stronger religious zeal. The “New Right” political party advocated against sexual permissiveness, abortion, feminism, and the spread of gay rights. Seeing as they were conservative and adamant on religious ideals, they opposed liberal views, similar to the radicalism in the sixties. They would hold prayer meetings, and advocate for Christianity and pro-life decisions. Conservatism rooted in the idea to stabilize the economy by fixing the issues that the government is putting forth.
The interpretation of the origins of modern conservatism that is most persuasive is Bruce Shulman, Jefferson Cowie, and Laura Kalman. Their interpretation included the idea that 1970s activists took advantage of stagflation, the Watergate-era’ disillusionment with government, and foreign-policy frustrations to mobilize new constituencies on behalf of conservatism. They believed that their agenda was combined with anti government, and free-market economic policies with a new emphasis on hot-button “social issues''. With Regan’s election, he strongly advocated for a conservative government due to issues with liberal approaches to the government. For example, during Carter’s presidency, he did not control the high inflation well in the economy. There was high stagnation which incorporated unemployment and high inflation rates in the economy. Due to this distress on the economy and the American public, Reagan decided to shrink the federal government by reducing federal spending by $35 billion dollars and promoting supply-side economics. This style of economics pushed for smaller taxes, while minimizing the government-business relationship. Similarly, the Watergate scandal grew distrust between the American public and the government. From this, Reagan pushed for a smaller government method to suffice the needs and wants of the American public to regain their trust. Since Americans were angry at the high federal spending for random government programs, the reduction of spending would make them appeal to Regan more, and grow more trust in the government. Additionally, there were high foreign-policy frustrations with the Soviet Union at the time since the Cold War had gone on for at least 4 decades. During this time, the U.S worked to finally put the Cold War to an end, while preserving democratic governments in Western Europe and America. The increased emphasis on a conservative government would keep communism out of the government. Also, the governments that contained Soviet Union influence were turning towards democratic governments since they proved more civil liberties to the people. Conservatism arose from taking advantage of the issues of prior government policies.
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