Conservatism, Reagan & the End

End of the Cold War and How America Became Conservative

The Rise of Conservatism

During the 1960's, many U.S. citizens called for political and social transformation. Some groups even identified with communist movements in developing countries. Many citizens however pushed back against social and political movements. They comprised a new conservatism that championed traditional values, opposed extensive government regulations, favored private property rights over newly civil rights legislation. They also supported a strong military to oppose the Soviet Union and the threat of Communism.

The Election of 1964

The nation first took notice of the rising wave of conservatism during the election of 1964 when Barry Goldwater became the first conservative to win the Republican election. President Johnson soundly defeated him but it was the first time since Reconstruction that a Republican had won the southern states.

Ronald Reagan

Out of Goldwater’s defeat arose a new conservative champion, Ronald Reagan.Reagan was a Hollywood actor and a charismatic communicator who believed in the conservative message

In 1966 Reagan won the election as governor of California. He served two terms before running for president in 1976.He lost the nomination to Gerald Ford, He ran again in 1980 winning the nomination and defeating Jimmy Carter.

The Reagan Years

From Actor to President


When Reagan entered office in 1981, he introduced a plan that his critics quickly labeled “Reaganomics”. It was a plan that was based on supply- side economics. Reagan believed the economy would be stimulated and would recover quickest if the supply of goods increased.

He backed policies and supported corporate tax cuts designed to benefit corporations and small businesses. This would lead to business owners and employers spending more money to hire workers and increase production.

National Debt

When Ronald Reagan became elected he believed two major things needed to change. The size and role of the government needed to decrease and the U.S. military had to be strengthened.

This meant that the same time Reagan was spending money on the military he was also cutting taxes and decreasing government regulation in other areas. This massive spending combined with less revenue from taxes contributed to a record national debt.

This term refers to the amount of money a country owes as a result of spending more than it takes in as revenue.

Reagan and the “Evil Empire”

Reagan was convinced that the Soviet Union could not be trusted and that they would stop short of nothing but worldwide domination. Reagan made headlines during his first term when he referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”.

Reagan believed the Soviet’s communist economy could not survive an arms race much longer. He believed the U.S. military buildup would not only increase the nation’s defense but would bring about the ultimate collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union.

Reagan and Gorbachev

In 1985, a young progressive leader by the name of Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR. Gorbachev and Reagan formed a unlikely friendship. In 1987 Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty which reduced the number of U.S. and Soviet missiles in Europe.

The Iron Curtain Comes Down

Gorbachev realized the hurting Soviet economy could not sustain an escalated arms race with the U.S. He initiated glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (a restructuring of the economy to allow limited free enterprise). These changes, along with the economic collapse of communist nations in Eastern Europe led to the fall of Communism.

On November 9, 1989, the East German government announced that people could travel freely to West Berlin. Germans flocked to the Berlin Wall and began tearing it down. The Wall and the Iron Curtain had fallen, the Cold War was over.

Reagan’s Final Years and Legacy

Reagan’s presidency was without its trials, U.S. forces were sent to Lebanon after Israel invaded Palestinian camps it suspected of launching attacks against them.

Reagan’s administration also suffered embarrassment over the Iran-Contra Affair when it became known that officials secretly sold weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages being held in the Middle East. Despite the challenges, many U.S. citizens remember Reagan as one of the nation’s foremost presidents.

The economy did well under his leadership, the military became stronger he was credited for ending the Cold War. Reagan won re-election in 1984 and left office in 1989 as a popular president, he did however run up a massive national debt.

Ms. Stockman 2013