The Reagan Revolution is the phrase that describes the period of time leading up to Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the aftermath of it. Reagan’s presidency caused conservative politics to be popular in America. Ronald Reagan’s incredible popularity began in 1981. As President, he planned to get tough on Communism, utilize a theory called supply-side economics, and make many financial cuts and reductions. Reagan also desired to restore America’s morality and social values. Kyle Ward’s textbook, “History in the Making” as well as other historical documents are excellent examples that show that the American people’s opinion of Reagan varies throughout history.
In the year 1982, Ronald Reagan’s campaign efforts are supported by many Americans. Due to this support he is able to convince the public that his ideas are what are best for America. His extreme popularity allows him to defeat all other politicians that oppose him. Reagan’s economic tactics included supply-side economics, which meant tax reductions to increase business’s investing. He also pledged to balance the budget. Additionally, Reagan would make efforts to boost the country’s defense budget. On Election Day, Reagan is able to easily defeat his opponents, Jimmy Carter and John Anderson. Ronald Reagan’s win officially starts off the era known as the Reagan Revolution.
In the year 1999, historians still portray Reagan as still being heavily favored by the public. He is nominated by the Republican Party as their representative. Reagan’s opposition came in the form of John Anderson and George H.W. Bush. After Reagan triumphs over Bush and Anderson, he decides to pick George H.W. Bush as his running mate. Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter. As a result of Reagan’s win the Republican Party becomes incredibly conservative. They desired reduced taxes and a reduction in government spending. The Republicans desired this as they felt it would revive prosperity and peace in America. Ronald Reagan attacks Jimmy Carter for his laissez faire way of dealing with the Iran hostage situation. In addition, he also blames Carter for the deplorable state of the economy. Reagan’s ideals and principles are able to cause many people to share a conservative state of mind. Reagan is so popular and convincing that even democrats are becoming conservative republicans. He speedily puts in place a number of regulations that apply a quota to the size of the federal government. His main economic plan, called “Reaganomics” is put into action.
Ronald Reagan’s first initiative that was part of Reaganomics included many different tax cuts. As president he vowed to make federal tax cuts. Reagan was also of the belief that a reduction in income tax would cause an increase in consumer spending. He also felt that corporate tax cuts would allow companies to hire additional workers, increasing production, and the employment rate. Ronald Reagan also made use of supply-side economics, which dictated that there should be a focus on increasing the supply of goods rather than increasing the demand for goods. In addition to his many tax cuts, President Reagan wished to reduce government spending.
Another aspect of Reaganomics was reducing government spending. First, Reagan would end federal government job training programs. Additionally, he would reduce the amount of money that was being spent on medicine, food stamps, and education. However, those who criticized Ronald Reagan felt that these reductions would end up hurting lower class American citizens. However, President Reagan was optimistic and swore that the government would always help disadvantaged Americans. Overall, Reagan’s economic package brought about varying results.
The President’s plan was greatly supported as he was incredibly likable. Reagan had excellent people skills as well as a keen sense of humor. These qualities enabled him to get people to believe in his proposals. Reaganomics amassed $39 billion worth of tax cuts. It also succeeded in creating a 25 percent cut in America’s income tax. All of Reagan’s efforts ended up lowering inflation rates. Although he made a difference in the economic state of America, Reagan was not totally satisfied with the results of all his work.
Ronald Reagan’s presidency was coined “The Reagan Revolution”. President Reagan made a promise of changing America’s economic and political state. He began changing the economic problems of our country by using his main economic strategy dubbed, “Reaganomics”. This program promised to make many tax cuts and reduce our government’s spending. Ronald Reagan made the bold conjecture that reducing income taxes would actually cause an increased spike in consumer spending. Reagan’s sentiments regarding corporate taxes were the same as his thoughts on income taxes. He felt that by cutting corporate taxes, he could actually cause an increase in the employment rate. In terms of changing the political aspects of America, Reagan brought about quick changes to our government. (K. Ward, 1982, 1999).
President Reagan promised to bolster our military as a means to stand up to communism. Reagan felt the Soviet Union in particular was an “evil empire”, so he vowed to crush communism and the Soviets. Additionally, Reagan was quick to decrease the size of our federal government. He did this by halting the hiring of new government employees. He also was very laissez faire based on the fact that he lessened the amount of control that the government had regarding business affairs. Moreover, Reagan put his Vice President, George HW Bush in charge of reviewing all federal regulations. Many historical documents and textbooks address Reagan’s various initiatives and evaluate the effectiveness that they had. (K. Ward, 1982, 1999).
In 1987, many of Reagan’s initiatives had already taken place. Due to this, Americans would have had the opportunity to voice a definite opinion of President Reagan’s actions and decisions while in office. One individual in particular, Mr. Michael Comiskey, had voiced his opinion of Reagan in the year 1987. Comiskey took the bold stance of saying that Reaganomics was largely a failure. He backed up his controversial opinion by saying that, “On at least two occasions in 1981, the President allowed publicly that enactment of his tax proposals would leave Congress with less money to spend” (M. Comiskey, 1987). He also uses the fact that Congress would not put Reagan’s Federalism Initiative or his many budget cuts in place. According to Mr. Comiskey Reagan’s failures make it near impossible to refer to Reaganomics, “as a successful political revolution” (M. Comiskey, 1987). In terms of politics, Comiskey says that it failed politically due to the fact that, “…most Americans did not want it” (M. Comiskey, 1987). Americans not wanting Reaganomics is incredibly significant because we live in a democracy. A democracy is defined as government by the people, so it is important to consider what the people desire. This negative opinion of Reaganomics and Reagan overall is very different from the perspective of History in the Making as the latter was very neutral. This opinion is also formed by the fact that by 1987, American’s had a bit of time to digest the events of Reagan’s Presidency. (M. Comiskey, 1987).
In 1990, the Reagan Revolution had drawn to a close. This allowed for a stronger evaluation of Reagan and his policies. Ronald Reagan was not fond of large government control. As President, “Ronald Reagan envisioned a smaller Government, a greater America” (J. White, 1990). He would be categorized as being rather laissez faire. Militarily, Reagan had little sense of smart battle tactics and strategic planning. Reagan made a military folly when he, “…attacked Libya, but the bombs missed their intended target, Colonel Muammar Quaddafi” (J. White, 1990). In terms of economics, Reagan was successfully able to get his budget and tax cut proposals passed. A prime example of his tax cuts passing would be his Tax Reform Act of 1986. Unfortunately for Ronald Reagan, many other budget attempts were denied. On a more positive note, Reagan’s attitude and optimism causes a large shift in the party loyalties of America. Reagan may have made seemingly minuscule achievements, however, “…the sum of the Reagan Presidency is greater than any of these” (J. White, 1990). Another positive aspect of Reagan’s presidential tenure is that he revived the affection and admiration the position once had. In comparison to History in the Making, this historical journal addresses the policies that Reagan crafted while in office. However, in contrast, it also offers criticism of Reagan’s failure to get some of his budget cuts passed, as well as his lack of military knowledge. The reasoning for the positive and negative viewpoints comes from the fact that as the Reagan Revolution had ended, there was a chance to evaluate it in depth. (J. White, 1990).
In 2008, Ronald Reagan had been dead for four years. As unfortunate as this is, it allows historians to give a complete analysis of Reagan as a person as well as Reagan as a President. America has dedicated a memorial to the former President in the form of the Reagan Legacy Project. The goal of this project is to craft a monument to Ronald Reagan in every single state. In addition, they also want to name something after him in every country in the United States. Even more impressive is that over forty state governments have dictated that February 6th is to be “Ronald Reagan day”. As a person, Reagan was humble, possessed very little ego, and stayed true to his convictions. These qualities allowed him to feel confident in any Presidential decision he made. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Reagan was of the opinion that domestic government was providing more problems than solutions for the American public. Reagan decided that he would deregulate the government. He justified this by claiming it would be economically efficient. Moreover, He was criticized for making cuts in programs such as, Medicare, food stamps, and education. Ronald Reagan backed up his decision by stating that the government was spending more than it should have been on welfare programs. Reagan begins to suffer losses when his proposals for cuts in Social Security are shot down by frustrated Americans. Reagan’s revolution of the welfare of America petered out in 1982. Due to Reagan’s failures, Republicans begin to become irritated and disappointed with his inability to bring about the change he promised. President Reagan’s economic decisions end up causing the national debt to triple, “…between fiscal years 1980 and 1989” (H. Heclo, 2008). The deficit also was a detriment to the elderly because it caused the downfall of health insurance program created by Reagan. These many losses make it impossible for Ronald Reagan to create a revolution in social welfare. Ronald Reagan also felt that changing taxation in America would help create a revolution. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Reagan was of the opinion that his various tax cuts and reductions allowed him to accomplish his goals. As president he created, “…the longest period of continued economic growth in American history” (H. Heclo, 2008). Many of Reagan’s changes to taxation have endured throughout history. An example of one of these changes is his reductions to federal income tax rates. An additional example would be the cut that Reagan made in the top marginal tax rate. It was seventy percent when he began, dropped to twenty-eight percent when he left office, and in 2008 at thirty-five percent. However, even with all the good Ronald Reagan’s tax reforms did, there would be negative sides to it as well. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Ronald Reagan’s ambitions to change taxation had some negative side effects. He created the largest tax increase in 1982 and 1984, in an attempt to compensate for the enlarging budget deficit. Another negative thing to be born out of Reagan’s taxation changes was the fact that the effective federal tax rate of the lowest fifth and the highest fifth remained stagnant from 1980 to 1981. By the time Reagan left office, a gratuitous amount of debt was left as well. Ronald Reagan tried to stop the Soviet Union as well as the Cold War. (H. Heclo, 2008).
In terms of national security, Ronald Reagan focused entirely on ending the Cold War and halting the Soviet Union. He wanted to defeat the Soviet Union because it would lead to freedom for humanity. Reagan went as far to say that Communism must disappear. He wanted to bolster the strength of the military as it would deter the Soviets from attacking. He knew that a peace treaty would be useless as the Soviets had no desire to make peace. Reagan felt that increasing America’s economic and military strength would bring peace. He decided to bolster our military as it would protect Americans from nuclear assaults. In addition, Reagan created the Strategic Defense Initiative. This was created to make the Soviet’s nuclear weapons absolutely worthless. Furthermore, to further protect America, President Reagan signed the INF treaty. This treaty disallowed both sides being able to use intermediate-range missiles. In order to further his goal of erasing Communism, Reagan allied with violent government leaders. (H. Heclo, 2008).
President Reagan made a goal of conquering Communism in the Third World countries. He did this by allying with Guatemala, Angola, and the Middle East. Reagan went as far as to supply Saddam Hussein with weapons. He made this dangerous move in the name of further crippling the Soviet-Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad. Unfortunately for the United States, Reagan did not understand the grave error of supporting attacks on militant Islam. (H. Heclo, 2008).
President Reagan’s blindness to the danger of militant Islam was very grave as it would fuel the terrorist groups. He viewed radical Islam as a form of Communism. In 1985, Ronald Reagan denounced Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Iran, and Libya, referring to them as, “…a united front of terrorist states” (H. Heclo, 2008). This would fuel the rage and aggression of terrorist groups. It also increased terrorist activity. This was also a poor decision on the part of Reagan as it presented America as being anti-Islam. Even though Ronald Reagan overall crushed the Soviet Union, he made a powerful enemy in the terrorists. Reagan may have made a fatal mistake in creating a dangerous enemy, but his overall tenure as President was good for America. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Ronald Reagan was in the good graces of the American people during his presidency. Supporters of Reagan claim that he revitalized the position. He personally left office with a sixty-four percent approval rating. Reagan brought back dignity, confidence, and conviction to the job. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan was involved in suspicious activities during his presidency. (H. Heclo, 2008).
During his two terms as President, Ronald Reagan involved himself in shady activities and deals. He was, “using presidential signing statements to quietly but consistently expand presidential power” (H. Heclo, 2008). These statements were used for the purpose of justifying and providing reasoning for any action Reagan and his administration took. Another questionable practice Reagan was caught up in was supplying arms to Contra as well as Iranian forces. This was seen as a heinous act as it violated the Arms Control Export Act of 1976. These many shady practices would be seen as the complete opposite of Reagan’s conservative principles and ideals. In order to raise the odds of having conservative policies being the majority, Reagan appointed many like-minded individuals. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Ronald Reagan appointed people who shared his conservative way of thinking. For example, to ensure that legal matters were ruled in his favor, Reagan appointed conservative federal and Supreme Court judges. His meticulous selection process was to ensure that things would go his way in a court room. In terms of political figures, he chose George HW Bush as his running mate. This decision revitalized the career of Bush. Reagan endorsed the son of George HW Bush, George W. Bush. This choice to endorse George W. Bush did not work in Reagan’s favor as it dissolved the conservative nature the Republican Party had known. Ronald Reagan also tried to change the politics of the party. (H. Heclo, 2008).
As the Republican President, Reagan attempts to have full Republican control. However, he fails to have maximum Republican power over Congress. In 1982, the Republicans take a loss by losing 26 house seats. After his reelection in 1984, Reagan campaigns for ten senate races. However, the democrats win the ten senate seats. On a better note, Reagan is able to change the way that Americans view the conservative way of thinking. He is so persuasive that he convinces evangelical Christians to become involved in national politics. Critics of Reagan’s political leadership have mixed feelings, some think he was great, others are quite harsh. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Reagan’s political leadership skills received mixed opinions. Those who were extremely critical declared him, “a simple-minded ideologue” (H. Heclo, 2008). Critics did not like how he had a single track of thinking. People who worked right alongside Ronald Reagan had a very positive opinion of him. The President himself, acted as an ordinary American citizen. This portrayal gave Reagan the appearance of a regular person and not any better than the hard working American. This would appeal to the American public as Reagan did not look down on his people. Reagan had a leadership style that would set the example for future leaders to follow. Reagan had felt that he did not need to attack the character of his political opponents. Reagan was filled with optimism as a person. (H. Heclo, 2008).
Ronald Reagan was an incredibly jolly and optimistic human being. He had great conviction and truly believed in what he said to the American public. He also was a very hopeful man. He was strong-willed and hopeful in the darkest times. Reagan’s presidency was also, “…a rediscovery of our values and common sense” (H. Heclo, 2008). President Reagan had completed what he set out to do, revive the values and morality of America. He also was able to see all the positive things about our country and look less at the negatives. Reagan’s qualities as a person allowed him to be an excellent president. In comparison to History in the Making, this article gives an entire evaluation of every single aspect of Ronald Reagan, from his changes to the welfare of America, to him as a person. History in the Making is different as it did not analyze Reagan in his entirety. Being able to analyze Reagan and all his different aspects allows a historian to create various opinions on those aspects. (H. Heclo, 2008).
The opinion of Ronald Reagan and his Reagan Revolution changes throughout history. In 1982, America was in dire need of change. After having previously been let down by former presidents including Jimmy Carter, the public needed someone to step in and revive America. Hence, when Ronald Reagan proposed all these grand ideas of change, the people were ecstatic. In 1987, the Reagan presidency had reached its midpoint. Due to this, people could draw up an opinion of a majority of Reagan’s decisions, policies, and Reagan himself. In 1990, Reagan had left office, so the people would look at the “current” state of affairs in America in order to craft an opinion of him. During the 1990s, American’s were led by President George HW Bush, who was tapped by Ronald Reagan to be his Vice President. So essentially, Reagan paved the way for the Bush presidencies that would follow. George HW Bush was a good enough president to be re-elected by the public. However, his son, George W. Bush was not so lucky. George W. Bush was very unpopular with the American people. In 1999, America was living through the Clinton presidency. Clinton signed the NAFTA, Welfare Reform, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Reagan’s legacy is not nearly as impactful at this point as his conservative principals would not stay in place, due to Clinton being a democrat. In 2008, President Obama was beginning his tenure. In a way, Reagan’s leadership style lived on through Obama as he, “…invoked Ronald Reagan in the 2008 presidential campaign as a role model of transformative leadership” (H. Heclo, 2008). The opinion that historians as well as regular American citizens form about Reagan has changed and will continue to throughout American history. (M. Comiskey, 1987, H. Heclo, 2008, K. Ward, 1982, 1999, J. White, 1990).
Comiskey, Michael. “A Response to Jeffrey Sedgwick”. Polity 20.2 (1987): 339–342. Web. 12 Feb 2016
Heclo, Hugh. “The Mixed Legacies of Ronald Reagan”. Presidential Studies Quarterly 38.4 (2008): 555–574. Web. 12 Feb 2016
Ward, K. History in the Making: An absorbing look at how American history has changed in the telling over the last 200 years. 2006 New York: The New Press.
White, John Kenneth. “How Should Political Science Judge Ronald Reagan?”. Polity 22.4 (1990): 701–715. Web. 12 Feb 2016