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CHAPTER 39

The Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980–1992

00000focus questions


10. What were the domestic goals of the Reagan administration, and was he successful in achieving those goals in his two terms as president?

20. What were the causes for the rise of the New Right?

00. What was Reagan’s legacy, in domestic policy and in foreign policy?

00. How was the New Right influential in both religion and the Supreme Court?

00. What were the major issues faced by George H.W. Bush in his administration?

0Chapter Themes


Theme: Leading a conservative movement to power in Washington, Ronald Reagan vigorously pursued new right economic and social policies. Under Reagan and his successor George Bush, these policies brought both economic growth and massive budget deficits that put severe constraints on the federal government.

Theme: Religion pervaded American politics in the 1980s; especially conspicuous was a coalition of conservative, evangelical Christians known as the religious right – —led by Jerry Falwell, an evangelical from Virginia. An organization called the Moral Majority rose to oppose what they viewed as the moral deterioration of American values.

Theme: The early 1980s saw a revival of Cold War confrontation, but the decade ended with the collapse of Communism, first in Eastern Europe and then in the Soviet Union itself. With the end of the Cold War and the U.S.-led victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, America remained the world’s only superpower. A series of relatively small military interventions in the Caribbean, and later in Africa and the Balkans, raised questions about the proper use of American force in the underdeveloped world.



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