Chapter 43 ~ The Resurgence of Conservatism ~ 1980 – 1996
I. The Triumph of Conservatism
President Jimmy Carter’s administration seemed to be befuddled and bungling, since it could not control the
rampant double-digit inflation or handle foreign affairs, and he would not remove regulatory controls from major
industries such as airlines.
Late in 1979, Edward (Ted) Kennedy declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for 1980. But, he
was hurt by his suspicious Chappaquiddick 1969 driving accident in when a young female passenger drowned
and he delayed reporting the incident.
As the Democrats dueled it out, the Republicans chose conservative former actor Ronald Reagan, signaling the
return of conservatism, since the average American was older than during the stormy sixties and was more likely
to favor the right (conservatives).
New groups that spearheaded the “new right” movement included Moral Majority and other conservative
iii. Race was a burning issue, and in the 1974 Milliken v. Bradley case, the Supreme Court ruled that desegregation
plans could not require students to move across school-district lines.
This reinforced the “white flight” to the suburbs that pitted the poorest whites and blacks against each other,
often with explosively violent results.
iv. Affirmative action, where minorities were given preference in jobs or school admittance, was another burning
issue, but some whites used this to argue “reverse discrimination.”
In the Bakke case of 1978, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Allan Bakke (a white applicant claiming
reverse discrimination) should be admitted to U.C.—Davis med school. The decision was ambiguous saying
(1) admission preference based on any race was not allowed, but conversely that (2) race could be factored
into the admission policy.
The Supreme Court’s only black justice, Thurgood Marshall, warned that the denial of racial preferences might
sweep away the progress gained by the civil rights movement.
II. The Election of Ronald Reagan, 1980
Ronald Reagan was a man whose values had been formed before the turbulent sixties, and Reagan adopted a
stance that depicted “big government” as bad, federal intervention in local affairs as condemnable, and favoritism
for minorities as negative.
He drew on the ideas of a group called the “neoconservatives,” a group that included Norman Podhortz, editor
of Commentary magazine, and Irving Kristol, editor of Public Interest, two men who championed free-market
Reagan had grown up in an impoverished family, become a B-movie actor in Hollywood in the 1940s, became
president of the Screen Actors Guild, purged suspected “reds” in the McCarthy era, acted as spokesperson for
General Electric, and become Californian governor.
iii. Reagan’s photogenic personality and good looks on televised debates, as well as his attacks on President Carter’s