American History 1980s Essay

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American History 1980s After Americans dealt with stagflation and economic uncertainty, Reagan’s election was a breath of fresh air. His charm and personality restored confidence in government, simultaneously increasing Americans’ expectation of government. Americans expected that economic growth would “end the scourge of poverty, guarantee opportunity to all citizens, and help bring Americans closer together.”1 Despite the economic growth and increased confidence in government during the Reagan presidency of the 1980s, it was unable to solve these underlying social issues at the time.
Reagan's experience as an actor had given him a great advantage in appealing to
Americans. He utilized his knowledge of acting to rouse audiences and sense how his speeches would sound and appear on television. His speeches were conversational, as if speaking to a friend. "Reagan's upbeat invocation of a simpler America appealed to millions of
Americans who believed the same myths and enjoyed having them affirmed."2 His black­and­white thinking displayed his message clearly to the audience; he saw issues as a matter of “good and evil, the division of the outside world into friends and enemies, and an approach to political life centered on the concepts of victory and defeat."3 For instance, he referred to the predicament between Russia and the United States on nuclear weapons as a
“struggle between right and wrong and good and evil."4
Reagan's economic policy had also gained public approval because it had a long­term effect. When Reagan's full 10% tax cut went into effect in 1982, stocks initially plummeted,

1

Steven M. Gillon, The American Paradox, 2nd ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007), 321. Ibid., 298.
3
Stephen Benedict Dyson, "Cognitive Style and Foreign Policy: Margaret Thatcher's Black­and­White Thinking,"
2

International Political Science Review30, no. 1 (January 2009): 41, accessed April 21, 2014, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.niagara.edu/stable/20445174. 4 Ronald Reagan, "President Ronald Reagan on Russia as an 'Evil Empire,' 1983," address presented at National
Association of Evangelicals, Orlando, FL, March 8, 1983, in Echoes of the Future: The Voices of America since 1945, ed. Gerald Carpenter and Donald F. Peters (Lido Beach, NY: Whittier Publications, 1994), 31.

but then grew 30% the rest of the year and continued to soar over the next 18 years. Inflation which policymakers were unable to lower from an average of 8% for a dozen years, had decreased to 3% and stayed there, and unemployment had decreased to 5%. “The amount of time spent in recession in the 18 years following 1982 was one­fifth that lost to recessions in the 13 years of stagflation.”5
"For decades conservatives contented themselves with saying: Liberals emphasize equality of condition, [conservatives] emphasize equality of opportunity."6 Critics argue that
Reagan’s policies had "imposed undue hardship on the poor," and his income­tax cut proved illusory for all except the wealthiest Americans.7 While Reagan had cut welfare programs, the growth of the economy had increased living standards. Despite the dramatic increase in deficits, "the wealth tossed off by the country over the long boom overwhelmed the 'Reagan deficits' of the 1980s."8 Although Reagan's objective was to be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunities for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination," economic prosperity did not solve the differing ideologies in America.9
Thus, issues concerning morality became prominent in the 1980s.
Economic prosperity could not prevent the conflicting ideas of morality versus individual expression. Jerry Falwell gained popularity with the white middle­class and uneducated poor in the Sunbelt by preaching standard fundamentalist ideas against drinking, gambling, abortion, gay rights, and…