In the 1980s, people talked of a “second American Revolution” that would reverse the decay, intolerance, and social fragmentation of the 1970s. Ronald Reagan became America’s last hero because he led this conservative renaissance. With his famous smile, jaunty style, and unending optimism, Reagan seemed to personify all the best values of America: strength, courage, and honesty. He also had the travails of political failure — in 1976, 1980, and 1984 — to keep him humble. But why was Reagan so popular? Why not? Read on for an explanation
Why Was Reagan So Popular?
Reagan was popular because he was a good communicator. He was an excellent speaker and knew how to connect with the American people. He spoke in simple terms that were easily understood by the average person.
A Decade Of Decay
- The economy is in a recession.
- The deficit is at an all-time high.
- Unemployment is at 8 percent and rising.
- The stock market has fallen by 70 percent since the beginning of the year.
- Interest rates will be raised in order to stimulate the economy and reduce inflation and unemployment.
- Taxes will be raised to pay for this stimulus package, which will reduce deficits over time but not eliminate them completely, as the deficit will continue to grow.
- The government will have to borrow money in order to pay for this stimulus package, which will increase the debt burden throughout the coming decade but not at a rate that would cause a crisis.
- The Federal Reserve will buy up large amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds with newly printed money, thus reducing interest rates and increasing the amount of money in circulation, which will also stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment and inflation pressures.
- The Federal Reserve will also sell off large amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds to other countries, thus reducing interest rates around the world and increasing demand for U.S.-made goods and services, which will stimulate the U.S.-based economy as well as international trade cooperation between the United States and other nations, which would help prevent a global financial crisis from spreading around the world if it were to occur.” – Ronald Reagan (1984)
- “The easiest thing for the government to do is to print money and spend it. The government does not have to pay for it. The government does not have to collect taxes or borrow money. It can just print the money and spend it.” – Ronald Reagan (1984)
- About Ronald Reagan: “He was a politician who found success as a communicator, who understood that people did not vote based on policy, but on his ability as a communicator.” – Arthur Laffer (1980)
- Reagan’s Economic Policies: “In addition to the tax cuts, his administration cut waste and fraud in government spending; cut the inflation rate; lowered interest rates; increased defense spending; and lifted the economy out of recession.” – Arthur Laffer (1980)
The Rise Of The Right
The Silent Majority
In the early 1970s, the Silent Majority was finally starting to come out of its shell. They were tired of being portrayed as old, racist, and poor. The Silent Majority felt that their opinions were not being heard by the government. Many of them began to realize that they did have a voice in this country and that they needed to use it.
The New Right
The New Right was a term used to describe a new generation of conservative leaders who had little or no experience in politics before becoming involved in Ronald Reagan’s campaign for President in 1976. These individuals were mostly young and inexperienced but they had been influenced by the works of such thinkers as William F Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, and Robert Welch (founder of the John Birch Society). They believed that many federal programs were simply unnecessary and more than anything else, dangerous because they interfered with private enterprise which is what America was all about. The New Right believed in limited government and free markets where private enterprise can run without interference.
The Religious Right
The Religious Right is an important part of the conservative movement in America. Many people who are affiliated with the Religious Right feel that they have been ignored by the major parties for far too long and that their religious beliefs are being threatened by liberals who want to bring about godless societies. They believe that they should have more influence on public policy as it affects religious matters and they also feel that they need to be more involved in politics as a way of protecting their rights.
The New Defense Strategy
The New Defense Strategy was a new way of looking at defense spending and military policy after Reagan took office in 1981. He wanted to reduce defense spending drastically and he wanted to focus on the strategic aspects of the military rather than simply having large numbers of soldiers with rifles in order to keep America safe from Communism at all costs. Reagan thought this was ridiculous since he felt that Communism was not a real threat anymore and he believed that there wereciﬁcally in the early 1980s. It was a way of thinking that was being used by the Reagan administration to better understand the world and how to approach foreign policy. The New Defense Strategy involved a fundamental shift in the way the United States viewed itself and its role in the world.
The New World Order
The New World Order is a term used by President Reagan for what he believed would be an eventual new global order based on international law and international institutions as opposed to traditional spheres of influence. He believed that eventually, there would be one world government with one set of laws and one set of values that would govern all nations, not just America’s allies.
Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics
- Reagan cut top tax rates across the board.
- He lowered taxes on capital gains and dividends, which led to higher profits for companies.
- He raised taxes on cigarettes and gasoline, which caused people to buy less of them and thus reduce demand on the market.
- He increased military spending, which led to higher productivity in the economy (higher demand).
- He cut government spending in areas that did not increase revenue or productivity (Social Security, welfare).
- His policies stimulated the economy and reduced unemployment, although he didn’t achieve full employment until 1982 (after he left office).
- Inflation fell from 10% in 1980 to 1% in 1986.
- Reagan’s policies led to a huge budget surplus for the first 7 years of his presidency, which was used to fund tax cuts and deficit spending.
- The economy began growing again very quickly after he left office, partly due to the supply-side policies (tax cuts) that he initiated while he was president.
- As a result of all these factors, real GDP grew by 35% between 1980 and 1989 (the 4th year of Reagan’s presidency).
The 1980s were a decade of political and social change. There was a revival of conservatism and a decline in liberal ideas. The Iran-Contra scandal and the Savings and Loan Crisis showed that the government was not always efficient. The 1980s were a decade of change. There were many new ideas and technologies that we use today – cell phones, computers, online shopping, and more. There was also a shift in politics and culture. The Cold War came to an end, and the Berlin Wall was torn down. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the Cold War, and its fall was symbolic of the shift in global politics. Reagan’s popularity was linked to his optimistic belief in the power of the individual, his image as a strong leader and his promise to bring prosperity and security to America.