Chapter 7 – The Revolution Begins: The 1980 Election Campaign and the Reagan Coalition


Ronald Reagan’s personal experience and understanding of history uniquely prepared him to be a U.S. Cold War President and Commander-in-Chief. Throughout his life, he was marked by a strong sense of civic responsibility, a deep love of America and its freedom faith and experience, and by a deep concern about the growing existential threat posed by America’s nuclear-armed totalitarian superpower antagonist.

Reagan’s Faith and Leadership. Reagan’s career prior to his presidency included self-reliant roles of life-guard, free-speaking broadcaster, soldier, movie actor, labor union leader, national lecturer, and two-term governor of California. Reagan’s 1970s critiques and election campaigns built on major institutional catalysts in a bi-partisan coalition in support of a new Cold War strategy to expose and turn back Soviet deception and aggression. During his 1980 campaign, he spoke to neglected Cold War realities and stakes, outlined a revolutionary strategy and innovative programs, and overcame the hesitation of his own party establishment and the strong opposition of his critics in the Congress, the media, and academia—many of whom dismissed him as a Cold War “hawk,” “conservative,” and, most pejoratively, as an “anti-Communist” opposed to Soviet ideology and empire. Yet his perspective was deeply informed and he gained increasing support from a broad, bi-partisan spectrum of the American people. He successfully confronted the Soviet totalitarians with moral and strategic challenges they had not anticipated and could not effectively counter without exposing their system to fatal risks.

1. Reagan’s Political Journey and the Reagan Revolution in Cold War Strategy

Through this book’s historical narrative and its associated Internet Document Library, readers gain unprecedented access to long neglected key facts, historical contexts, policy debates, and authoritative primary source documents on the Cold War and Ronald Reagan’s successful strategy. Since Sun Tzu, strategists and statesmen have been advised to begin their thinking about strategy by gaining clarity about their own country’s nature and cause and that of its enemies, i.e., to “know thyself” and “know thy enemy.” In that spirit readers have

[Book pg. 149]