Ronald Reagan

Election of Reagan

Election of 1980


  • Republican candidate Ronald Reagan v. Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter
  • Reagan won over 51% of the popular vote as opposed to 41% to Carter and 7% to a third party candidate
  • Won 489 votes in the electoral college as opposed to Carter's 49
  • Republicans gained control of Senate for the first time in 25 years
Election of 1984


  • Republican candidate Ronald Reagan v. Democratic candidate Walter Mondale
  • Mondale ran with female VP Geraldine Ferraro, still lost because he served as Carter's VP and associated with the failed administration
  • Reagan won 525 electoral votes to Mondale's 13 votes
  • Won 52,609,797 popular votes in comparison to Mondale's 36,450,613 votes

Issues /Concerns over the national budget

  • One of Reagan's major goals was to reduce the government's size by shrinking the federal budget and cutting taxes
  • Citizens were tired of paying for "government benefits" through programs like those of the New Deal and Great Society
  • Californian tax revolt of 1978- Proposition 13- cut property taxes and greatly reduced government services
  • Reagan's budget proposal- $35 billion cut in social programs such as food stamps and government funded job training centers
  • Was shot in the lung on March 6, 198, recovered quickly, addressed America on television and received overwhelming support for his "supply-siders plan"
  • Part 1- Congress agreed to cut back immensely on social welfare plans installed but the Democrats
  • Part 2- called for deep tax cuts, up to 25% over the next 3 years
  • August 1981- Congress approved a set of tax reforms that: lowered individual tax rates, reduced federal estate taxes and began tax free savings plans for small investors
  • Led to nearly 11% unemployment rate in 1982, businesses collapsed and several banks failed
  • Especially hit the automobile industry hard
  • Democrats accused Reagan of forcing the nation's burdens onto the poor and handicapped by canceling all the social welfare programs
  • Widened wealth gap between the rich and poor, created class of yuppies young rich urban professionals who excessively indulged in material goods

Reagan and the Cold War

  • Had harsh opinions against Soviets, condemned them for invading Afghanistan
  • Believed on negotiating with the soviets only if the US had the upper hand in strength and technology
  • Proposed to achieve this through SDI in March 1983
  • SDI- Strategic Defense Initiative - called for orbiting battle stations to fire laser beams to vaporize intercontinental missiles
  • Mocked by scientific community due to it's complex, impossible, fantasy-like goal, called the Star Wars plan
  • Emphasized defense over offense, was questionable whether pouring this much money into defending against the Soviets was worth it
  • Relations were further strained through the following events: Polish Solidarity, ill health and deaths of many oligarchs in Kremlin, shooting down of a Korean plane that had reportedly crossed into soviet airspace(killed hundreds of civilians),boycotts of the Moscow and Los Angeles olympics boycotts

Iran Contra-Imbroglio

  • Iran Contra Affair- 2 main foreign unsolvable issues for Reagan: growing numbers of American hostages by extremists in Lebanon and the unfaltering strength of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua
  • Reagan wanted to provide military assistance to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, but Congress refused
  • Congress saw a link between the 2 problems
  • 1985, secretly arranged for arms sales to Iran in return for release of American hostages
  • Used the money from the arms sales to help the contras, information about this illegal dealing leaked out in November of 1986
  • Reagan denied involvement, and many officials were convicted
  • Scandal cast a negative shadow on the Reagan administration though Reagan remains one of the most popular presidents in modern American history

Reagan's economic legacy

  • Vowed to improve the economy by rolling back government regulations, lowering taxes, and balancing budget
  • Successful in reducing many regulatory rules and pushed major tax reform bills through congress in 1981 and 1986, but couldn't achieve a balanced budget
  • Supply-side economics promised that lower taxes would stimulate economy, but in reality lower taxes and military spending led to increase in national debt, nearly $2 trillion
  • Led to decrease of excessive social welfare programs such as the Great Society- achieved Reagan's ultimate goal: containment of the welfare state
  • Reversal of the trend toward equitable distribution of income, squeezing of middle class, median household income declined etc.