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

Reagan’s Freedom Revolution. Reagan’s view of Cold War realities and key instruments was painted by his opponents in the American establishment, among European intellectuals, and in Soviet propaganda as those of a hopelessly backward-looking reactionary “conservative,” while Reagan’s opponents viewed themselves as forward-looking “progressives.” In fact, it was Reagan’s domestic opponents who were often wedded to deeply flawed, outdated, and unworkable theories of domestic big government and international accommodation. Abroad, the Soviet leaders in particular were truly reactionary and in the backwash of history in their anti-democratic and anti-humanitarian totalitarian views. It was Marxist-Leninists, not Reagan who praised class warfare, a gigantic state bureaucracy, and the historical necessity of a small elite forcibly imposing a Communist Party “dictatorship of the proletariat” throughout the Soviet Union’s “Socialist Camp” or “Socialist Commonwealth.” After Lenin’s Soviet Revolution against a Democratic Socialist coalition government, Communist leaders during the long Cold War sought to give benign-sounding titles like “Democratic People’s Republic” to their tyrannical regimes behind the Iron Curtain. Yet, they in fact controlled a counter-revolutionary colonial empire of captive peoples and nations run by a privileged Communist Party class on an “apartheid” basis. The Reagan Revolution instead brought a forward-looking vision and programs for progress based on freedom, hope, and the rights and dignity of each individual person.

A New Path to Victory. In the face of American Cold War illusions and drift in the 1970s, Reagan sought a new path to deal with clear and present dangers in the face of mounting Soviet military power and imperial reach as America and its allies grew increasingly susceptible to confusion, concessions, and crisis. Reagan’s understanding of Cold War history was that America’s drift into weakness and crisis was surely provoking increased aggression by the Soviet Union and its proxies. U.S. Cold War strategies of “containment,” “Mutual Assured Destruction,” and “détente” were demonstrably ineffective in slowing, much less reversing Soviet military momentum and imperial reach and presented the untenable alternatives of U.S. policy paralysis or increased risks of nuclear confrontation.

Two Constitutional Imperatives. For Reagan, this deadly situation demanded that his country and its Commander in Chief meet two imperatives in particular as set forth in the U.S. Constitution as prerequisites for a future of peace and freedom. These were “to provide for the common defense” and to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Without these two imperatives assured, the other great constitutional imperatives could not be met, i.e., “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, . . . [and] promote the general welfare.”

Reagan’s Revolutionary Resolve. Reagan rejected the illusions of the predominant interrelated U.S. Cold War strategies of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), détente, and balance-of-power based on rough moral, ideological, and strategic equivalence. Instead he took on the Soviet Union’s totalitarian communist ideology, state, and empire with an audacious, comprehensive, and consistent strategy unparalleled among America’s Cold War presidents with President Harry Truman’s 1950 NSC–68 Strategy (reviewed in Chapter 4) coming closest. Reagan was determined to build U.S. and Allied strength in order to reduce the risks of nuclear war and to secure the sphere of freedom even behind the Iron Curtain throughout the Soviet empire. He proved unmatched and unbreakable in his resolve to increase pressure on the Soviet leaders to force Soviet policy reassessments and changes that he and his “Reaganaut” supporters understood could fatally undermine totalitarian authority, legitimacy, and control, thereby setting the conditions for the peaceful collapse of the Soviet empire and the peaceful end of the Cold War.

Reagan’s Revolutionary Strategy—Presidential Campaigns. By the 1976 U.S. presidential campaign, Reagan’s critiques of U.S. Cold War “détente” strategy impacted Ford administration policies with a toughened Republican Platform—1976, of which Richard Allen was a chief drafter. In January 1977, Reagan told Allen, his future senior campaign advisor on national security and his first National Security Advisor, “My Cold War strategy is to win it.” In the 1980 campaign, reviewed below, Reagan developed an unprecedented bipartisan coalition to bring America’s foundational principles and inherent strengths into a crusade for the future of America, its democratic Free World allies, and the dissidents and captive nations in, or under attack from, the Kremlin’s “Socialist Camp.”

Reagan’s Cold War strategy went well beyond the U.S. “containment” strategy that, in its implementation, failed sufficiently to expose and exploit the fatal contradictions of the Soviet ideology and regime and that proved unable to contain or even deter Soviet imperial power and momentum. He particularly rejected the Cold War’s nuclear deterrence strategy of MAD that was a bedrock of both the U.S. “containment” and “détente” strategies, but was predicated on nuclear destruction rather than on increasing reliance on Reagan’s

[Book pg. 155]