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

Party’s 1976 nomination. As American politics and popular culture were turning left, Reagan was derided by national media, academic elites, and radicals in the Congress as a “bozo,” “anti-Communist,” “right-wing nut,” and “Cold Warrior.” Yet Reagan gained increasing national attention and respect from the American people as he took on the naysayers, especially those in politics, media, and academia. He expressed America’s founding faith, humanity, common sense, and mixture of idealism (in values and vision) and realism (for meeting America’s international and defense requirements). The American people were increasingly polarized in the face of problems that their politicians and the national government of the 1970s increasinglyappeared unable to handle. Independents, conservatives, and moderate Democrats disillusioned with the predominant, “politically correct” views of the “establishment” elites turned to Reagan’s positive “can do” outlook built on America’s founding principles and long historical experience.

2. The Revolution Begins—“Let Reagan be Reagan”—A New Path

Ronald Reagan’s campaign and presidency changed the course of the Cold War and history through a revolutionary strategy grounded in America’s exceptional founding principles, historical experience, and a still-inspiring visionary dream. His “morning in America” presidential campaign of 1980 and his leadership during his two terms as president rebuilt America’s strength, moved the nation from recession and malaise to prosperity and confidence, rallied America’s democratic allies abroad, and took on mounting Cold War dangers emanating from the Soviet Union. Reagan was truly revolutionary in changing U.S. and Free World assumptions, strategies, and practices of the Cold War—and even those of the Soviet leaders. He collapsed the Soviet Union’s Communist ideology and empire of captive nations and subversion and in doing so dramatically changed the course of history to achieve a rebirth of peace and freedom across the globe.

Revolution versus Establishment Views of the Cold War. Most contemporary readers come to a study of Reagan and the Cold War unfamiliar with key authoritative documents and facts about the two antagonistic founding faiths (America’s freedom faith and Communist or Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism) at the heart of the Cold War conflict. They are generally even less familiar with the origins, history, and challenges of that conflict before Reagan’s presidency and then with the Reagan Revolution in U.S. Cold War strategy that followed. They have generally depended on secondary sources that provide footnotes and perhaps excerpts or copies of a few documentary texts. Yet historical studies and academic courses appear only very seldom to draw on the broad range of Reagan’s own official statements, studies, decision documents, and public diplomacy reports as reviewed, cited, and made readily accessible in this book’s related Internet Document Library.

Younger readers in particular may be surprised that Reagan’s view of the Cold War’s roots, development, protagonists, and strategies were so radically different from the Cold War perspectives predominant among his predecessors or that he was considered foolish and dangerous by the bulk of the “establishment” elites, including some in the Republican Party, that opposed him as candidate and president. Reagan throughout his career faced politicians (especially Democrats) and media figures, academics, and government bureaucrats, who expressed their disdain for him with their favorite terms of ridicule: “conservative,” “ideologue,” “hard-liner,” “hawk” or just “dunce”. The historical narrative and documents reviewed here should help illuminate how wrong these critics were and why Reagan’s both idealistically- and realistically-based key assessments and decisions led to Cold victory and still provide important lessons in the twenty-first century.

The Cold War Stakes: Faiths and Systems in Conflict in a Nuclear Age. Reagan offended his critics in his understanding that the Cold War was no less than the Third World War of the twentieth century, waged, like the first two, for high moral and strategic stakes—including, in a nuclear age, the very survival of America and the cause of freedom around the globe. He saw the origins and history of the Cold War as deriving from irreconcilable founding faiths and political systems that could not be bridged by traditional diplomacy or by deeply flawed Western strategic concepts of the 1970s like “moral equivalence,” “peaceful coexistence,” or “détente.” Nor could the Communist side be deterred by older traditional Cold War concepts like “Mutual Assured Destruction” or “containment”. With the Cold War’s outcome uncertain and the future of freedom, peace, and mankind itself at existential risk in a nuclear age, Reagan was determined to develop a strategy to roll back the Soviet challenge and expand the sphere of human freedom into and beyond the Soviet empire, even while at the same time taking effective steps to reduce the risks and weapons of superpower war.

Reagan’s Revolutionary Understanding of Cold War History. For readers to get “inside” Reagan’s historical foundation and framework of his Cold War perspectives and new strategy, they should, as noted earlier, begin with a review of the six historical chapters in Part I of this narrative on the roots and history of the Cold

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