Part II -- THE REAGAN REVOLUTION IN U.S. COLD WAR STRATEGY AN OVERVIEW

Chapter 9 – The Strategy Gains Force: The Second Term

Reagan Holds Fast and Succeeds. Reagan had early seized the Cold War’s moral and strategic high ground during his first term and in his second term further stressed Soviet ideological authority, domestic difficulties, and imperial over-reach with rebuilt American and allied strengths. He led from strength throughout his second term including at summit meetings with Gorbachev in Geneva, Reykjavik, Washington, and Moscow. The topical chapters of Part III of this book review other examples of Reagan’s freedom speeches, his “Reagan Doctrine” reports in 1986, his U.S. national security strategy directives and reports on U.S. defense modernization, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), arms control, support to anti-Communist resistance forces, and exposure of Soviet “active measures” and other subversive intelligence operations.

1. Reagan’s 1984 Election Victory, Inaugural Address, and State of Union Speech—November 1984 to February 1985

For the November 1984 U.S. national elections, the Reagan Campaign Platform—1984 sustained his 1980 vision and built on his first-term achievements. These included revitalizing the American economy; rebuilding American and Allied defenses; improving diplomatic and intelligence strengths; taking on human rights in the Kremlin’s “Socialist Camp;” and rolling back Soviet imperial power.

Election Ads on the “Bear in the Woods” and the Debates. Reagan’s 1984 campaign theme for his domestic achievements was highlighted in a sunlit television commercial proclaiming that it was “morning again in America.” His message on his Cold War defense and foreign policies was encapsulated in famously effective television ad featuring a bear (a national symbol for Russia) prowling the woods, while the narrator warned that:

There’s a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious, and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.1

Campaign highlights included nationally-televised presidential debates on domestic issues on October 7, 1984 and on foreign policy on October 21, 1984. In both cases, Reagan demolished the arguments of his Democratic Party rival Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s former Vice President. In the private sector, a significant contribution was made by the Heritage Mandate for Leadership II, published in November 1984, that served as an update to the foundation’s Heritage Mandate —1980.

Presidential Election Results. During his campaign, Reagan and his domestic and international policies faced strong opposition from Congress, national media, and academia. However, the American people gave him a landslide victory with a newly strengthened mandate as he entered a second term. On November 6, 1984, Ronald Reagan and his Vice President, George H.W. Bush, won an overwhelming 525 electoral votes (97.6%) against Mondale and his vice presidential candidate Representative Geraldine Ferraro. The Democrats received only 13 electoral votes (2.4%), winning only Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia, while losing the other 49 states. The popular vote was 54.45 million votes (58.8%) for the Reagan–Bush Republican ticket to 37.58 million votes (40.5%) for the Democrats.

Congressional and Gubernatorial Election Results. In the U.S. Senate, Reagan’s Republicans lost one seat, thereby decreasing the control they had gained in 1980 from a margin of 54–46 to 53–47. Of the 18 Republicans up for reelection, 16 were reelected, and Republicans gained 2 of 3 open seats. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans gained 16 seats in addition to the 34 they had gained as part of the Reagan landslide victory of 1980, thus further reducing Democratic control from 1980’s 269–166 to 253–182 in 1986. In the gubernatorial elections, Republicans lost three governorships and gained four for a net increase of one, leaving Democrats with a 34–16 margin across the country.

The Reagan and Western Alliance Revolution versus the Kremlin. Reagan’s landslide election victory brought immediate salutary results in strengthening his mandate to continue his “peace through strength” Cold War strategy and in increasing his ability to leverage changes in Soviet thinking that would undermine the totalitarian regime and roll back its imperial objectives and capabilities. During Reagan’s first term, the Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko had proven themselves unprepared and unable in their frozen bureaucratic regime to understand the substantial ideological and structural reforms required to correct the Communist Soviet Union’s serious economic and social problems. They could not effectively withstand the powerful unexpected anti-Soviet pressure of the Reagan Revolution underway in

[Book pg. 188]
 

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