AP US History
12 April, 2012
Post 1980: The New Political Era (REAGAN, H.W BUSH, CLINTON)
The election of 1980 marked a ‘new political era’ that was ushered in by President Reagan and that followed on through the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton. These presidents were inaugurated at different times and succeeded the successes and the failures of their predecessors. Having came from different political backgrounds and having unique political and social beliefs, Bush, Reagan, and Clinton can only be analyzed through their foreign policies, domestic policies, achievements as well as shortcomings, and legacies. Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Illinois. He was an accomplished actor and public official who later ventured into politics and became the governor of California from 1967 to 1975(University of Virginia). Although Ronald Reagan aspired to be president, he was unsuccessful in the election years of 1968 and 1976. During the election of 1976, the presidential aspirants were James E. Carter Jr., Reagan, and Gerald R. Ford, who was the Republican president at the time. With slightly more electoral votes (297 versus 240) than his rival, President Ford, Jimmy Carter, the Southern Democrat, won the election larger as a result of the shift in public-appeal of the Republican party amid corruption issues such as the Watergate scandal involving former President Richard Nixon. Carter’s success had also relied heavily on the Southern vote as well as ninety-seven percent of the African American vote. On the other hand, Reagan only won a single electoral vote in the state of Washington (Summers).
In 1965, President Johnson had brought into action a policy that ensured underprivileged minorities and women access to education, jobs, and promotion. However, in 1978 during the landmark Supreme Court case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, a white man, Bakke, applied twice to a California medical school but was rejected both times on the grounds of his age and also because the medical school had sixteen reserved seats for minority applicants. The final verdict of the court case declared that college admissions could not be based on race only, and no applicants would receive preferential benefits or discrimination as a result of their race and ethnic background (Oyez). As the Election of 1980 drew close, Ronald Reagan, being a well-known movie actor and radio-host, became famous among Republicans and the public. He represented the average American and was a well-informed spokesperson for conservative republicans and an effective political speaker due to his captivating oratory skills. During the election campaign, Reagan attacked President Carter’s Democratic resolutions of big government solutions to issues. He also argued against America’s loss of prestige under President Carter since Iranian extremists had kidnapped American hostages during the Iranian Hostage Crisis where the Iranian militants seized the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran (Newman and Schmalbach 642). The other player in the race for presidency was John Anderson, a moderate republican who was running as an independent. As a result of Carter’s presidency losing favor with voters, Reagan won the election with a staggering 91 percent of the electoral vote and 51 percent of the popular vote. President Carter came close in the popular vote category with 41 percent whereas John Anderson managed to secure 8 percent of the popular vote. Reagan had taken over 50 percent of the blue-collar vote and this was the first time since 1954 as the Republicans dominated the Senate by defeating 11 liberal Democrats targeted by the Moral Majority. The Republicans also gained 33 seats in the House which easily create a majority if combined with the votes of the conservative southern Democrats. The result of the 1980 election also marked the...