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Topics: American Politics - Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004), served as the 40th President of the United States of America from 1981 to 1989. He was the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975), following a successful career in film and television. He has been universally hailed as one of the greatest American Presidents and the main inspiration for the conservative movement from the 1970s to the present.
Reagan was an intellectual leader of American conservatism, and succeeded in moving the nation to the right in terms of reducing federal regulation and lowering taxes--and indeed in promoting the conviction that government was the problem and private enterprise the solution. He cut taxes but despite his proposals, spending and the federal deficit went up. After a short sharp recession early in his first term, the economy was strong by 1984. Proclaiming "It's Morning Again in America", Reagan carried 49 of 50 states to win reelection. He moved the Supreme Court and the federal courts to the right with his appointments.
Reagan's supply-side economic policies were based on the libertarian ideas of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics. "Reaganomics" was based on the idea that tax cuts will spur savings and investment. Reagan was strongly opposed to the concept of big government, advocating a reduction in the size and budget of the federal government. During his terms in office, he faced a divided Congress split between Republican and Democratic control for six of his eight years as President. Reagan was known for forging alliances with "Blue Dog" (conservative) Democrats to overcome the apparent majority led by Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill.
In foreign affairs Reagan rejected détente with the Soviet Union, but not with China. His massive defense buildup forced the Soviets to confront their crumbling financial base. He rejected the legitimacy of Communism and in the Reagan Doctrine systematically challenged and eventually destroyed Soviet strength in the Third World. After 1986 the new leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev who tried desperately to rescue Communism by cutting its losses; they came to terms with Reagan; the Communist empire collapsed in 1989 a few months after Reagan left office, and Communism was abolished (and Gorbachev repudiated) by Russia in 1991. Reagan is thus credited with achieving victory in the Cold War.
Always distrustful of nuclear weapons, Reagan proposed SDI, a space-based system to defend against nuclear missiles. The inability of the Soviet Union to match this new technological breakthrough forced it to agree to Reagan's terms for ending the Cold War. In leading the rollback of Communism in Europe, he battled powerful liberal forces that called instead for détente (peaceful relations) with Communism. As the Soviet system faltered and Gorbachev accepted Reagan's terms, ensured an unprecedented level of nuclear disarmament. His signature phrase in dealing with Communists was "trust, but verify."
In his most famous challenges to Communism, Reagan went to the Berlin Wall and gave the Soviets the American terms for ending the Cold War: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The Soviets were forced to agree, and watched their empire collapse overnight in late 1989, a few months after Reagan was succeeded as president by his Vice President George H.W. Bush.
As a great communicator, and leader of the Republican party, he added a new base of "Reagan Democrats" (blue collar workers who were social conservatives), religious evangelicals, and neoconservative intellectuals; his success became the model for Republicans into the 21st century.