Conservative Counterrevolution and the Contemporary Era

  1. A New Conservative Coalition
    1. Free market conservatives, like Milton Friedman, who sought to reduce taxes and government regulation of the economy
    2. Middle class Americans who believed government programs were too oriented to the poor and not to them
    3. Critics of civil rights programs who believed things such as affirmative action were "reverse discrimination"
    4. Social conservatives, generally motivated by religious beliefs, who believed society had become too permissive, particularly on sexual and gender matters
    5. People concerned about crime
  2. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
    1. Defeats Jimmy Carter due in large part to economy, Iranian hostage crisis
    2. Sought to limit taxes, spending, and role of government
      1. Able to pass significant tax cuts in first budget
      2. Cut food stamps, government jobs, student loans, urban transportation
      3. But also pursued large buildups in military spending
      4. Avoided cutting more popular programs such as Medicare and benefits for poorest Americans
      5. Able to achieve deregulation in some areas, particularly clean air laws for auto manufacturing
    3. Reaganomics
      1. Regan believed in "supply side theory"
        1. idea that lower taxes and less government spending would free up investment money
        2. entrepreneurs would then invest this money, producing jobs and economic growth
        3. This in turn would produce more tax revenue, covering the increase in defense spending
        4. opponents called it "trickle-down" economics
      2. Didn't entirely work out
        1. Federal Reserve pursued a tight money policy that reduced inflation
        2. this triggered a recession and 10% unemployment
        3. Reagan forced to moderate his spending cuts, defense increases, and accepts some non-income tax increases
      3. Recovery
        1. Economy finally began to pick up in 1983
        2. Tax cuts spurred consumer spending
        3. Japan limited auto exports, allowing U.S. firms to increase production
        4. Federal Reserve's policy tamed inflation, allowing it to lower interest rates
        5. Food and oils prices declined world wide
      4. Despite the recovery, the budget deficit began to grow rapidly
        1. Tax cuts, large defense build up, and early 1980s recession began to balloon the deficit
        2. Only brought under control because of compromise - an agreement for spending caps
          1. Republicans trimmed defense increases
          2. Democrats abandoned plans for increased social services, such as national health care
    4. Cultural issues
      1. Conservatives had been upset by many of the cultural changes that had developed in the 1960s and 1970s
      2. Particularly upsetting to many was Roe v. Wade (1973)
        1. Supreme Court overturned abortion bans, found in most states
        2. Did not overturn all abortion restrictions, only those that applied to the first trimester
        3. Based on Court's belief in an implied right to privacy in the Constitution
      3. Moral Majority
        1. Founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1979
        2. Part of the political emergence of the Christian Right, which had not been well organized or politically active in the past
        3. Opposed to feminism, homosexuals, abortion
        4. Particularly upset by Supreme Court's 1962 and 1963 decision banning state-sponsored organized school prayer and Bible readings
        5. Under Reagan, the Moral Majority and the Christian Right in general become key players in the Republican Party
      4. Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1977)
        1. (This pre-dates Reagan, but it's on this part of the study guide since it's considered part of the conservative resurgence)
        2. Allan Bakke sued University of California, claiming that he, a white mane, was denied entry to medical school due to affirmative action
        3. Court ruled that while race could not be used as the sole deciding factor for admissions, it could be used as one of many
    5. The Reagan legacy of downplaying civil rights issues and trimming or dismantling social reform programs also encouraged a response
      1. Best symbolized by Jesse Jackson
      2. Ran for President in 1984 as a Democrat at the head of the Rainbow Coalition
      3. Promoted a social programs geared towards the poor and the discriminated
    6. Nuclear Weapons
      1. Reagan saw the Soviet Union as an evil empire bent on world domination
      2. Abandoned detente, and expanded on the hard line Carter had begun after Soviets invaded Afghanistan
      3. Began deploying new nuclear missiles in Europe, which led Soviets to break off disarmament talks
      4. "Star Wars" - the Strategic Defense Initiative
        1. In light of growing U.S.-Soviet tension, U.S. began pursuing anti-missile technology, based on lasers and particle beams
        2. Reagan did not belief in deterrence based on fear of mutual destruction, and wanted some kind of missile shield
        3. Nicknamed "Star Wars" by its critics, who feared it would only escalate tensions
      5. Arrival of new, reformist leader in Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, opened door for disarmament talks to resume
  3. George Bush the Elder (1989-1993)
    1. Largely continued the policies of Reagan
    2. Desert Storm
      1. U.S. foreign policy began to take up new issues after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991
      2. Regional conflicts have become increasingly more important to United States
      3. In August, 1990, Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait
        1. This gave him control of Kuwait's oil fields and put him in position to invade Saudi Arabia
        2. Given need to protect Saudi oil, Bush organized a UN coalition and persuaded Saudi's to accept American troops on their soil (Desert Shield)
        3. Desert Strom - in January, 1991, Bush began a massive bombing campaign, and invading five weeks later
        4. First military action of such large scale since Vietnam
        5. Chose not to overthrow Iraq because he feared this would break up the coalition and pull America into a long-running guerilla war
    3. Clarence Thomas
      1. Nominated in 1991 by Bush to succeed Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court
      2. Thomas was a Black conservative, and was highly critical of modern civil rights leaders
      3. Enormous controversy broke out Anita Hill, a law professor and former aide, accused Thomas of sexual harassment
      4. Became a "he-said, she-said" debate - Thomas was narrowly approved by the Senate
  4. Some random contemporary terms from the study guide
    1. Age discrimination
      1. With a rapidly aging population, the concerns of older Americans have become increasingly important
      2. On particular area of concern as been employment and hiring
      3. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1986 made mandatory retirement illegal
    2. Service economy
      1. The manufacturing sector of the economy has been in decline for almost half a century
      2. As a result, more and more Americans (75% by the mid-1980s) are employed providing a service or an expertise, not making something
      3. While many of these jobs are high paying professional positions, many are also low paying unskilled positions
      4. This decline was partly a result of a long period of failure to invest in research and new infastructure
    3. 2000 presidential election
      1. The controversy over the 2000 election demonstrated that the country was very evenly divided
      2. Bush (the Younger) won the South and West, Al Gore the urban coastal states
      3. Middle class evenly divided, while rich voted for Bush and poor for Gore
      4. Gore maintained a Democratic lead with Hispanics, Blacks, and women
      5. Bush made advances with Catholics, and trimmed Democratic lead with Hispanics