The election of Ronald Wilson Reagan to the presidency in 1980 and 1984 gave the Republican Party an opportunity to enact its program Republicans referred to it as the Reagan Revolution. However the term should be expanded to encompass the acceleration of a realigning process that would eventually make the GOP the nation’s governing party. The success of Republican cultural arguments was reflected in the movement of the Reagan Democrats into the Republican column. The conversion of the South sped up, and Reagan drew the white Evangelicals and Neo Conservatives into firm allegiance with the Republican Party.
Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, but they had lost thirty-three seats. Republicans took control of the Senate, having picked up twelve seats. It had been twenty-six years since the GOP ran the Senate. In the early Reagan years, the GOP stood foursquare behind their president, showing a degree of unity that was not to reappear until 1995. Democratic Representatives Bob Stump, Eugene Atkinson, Phil Gramm, and Andy Ireland joined the Republican Party. There was talk of a political realignment being underway, and the Democrats were so intimidated by the president’s great popularity that they offered little determined resistance. Speaker Tip O’Neill recognized the magnitude of the party’s losses and feared that it could lose control of the House of Representatives as early as in the 1982 elections. He also realized there was a potential for political realignment, with blue-collar Reagan Democrats staying with the GOP and a sharp acceleration of the movement of Southerners to the GOP standard.
In the House, there were 40 conservative “boll weevil” Democrats led by Charles Stenholm, who had more than enough votes to give Republicans control at any time. O’Neill had little choice but to signal Democrats that was acceptable to support Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts. There were major tax cuts in 1981 and 1986, but Reagan devotees forget that he also raised taxes several times. The top marginal tax rate was slashed from 78% to 35%. This act alone made Reagan a great hero in the eyes of most of America’s most prosperous citizens. The Speaker believed it possible to hold down the size of the 1981 cut, but in the end he was “rolled” by the Reagan administration. The White House was assisted by then-Democrat Phil Gramm, who kept it appraised of Democratic budget strategies.
An accomplishment with far-reaching political consequences was the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 in communications. This doctrine called for balanced political coverage on radio and television outlets. As a “public trust,” a station was required to fairly reflect opposing views. A Federal Communications Commission, dominated by Reagan appointees, abolished it in 1987. Congress attempted to reinstate it, but Reagan vetoed the bill on the grounds that it interfered with the principle of independent journalism. A year before that, Anton Scalia and Robert Bork, sitting on the D.C. federal circuit court, signaled that conservative justices were intent upon gradually nullifying the fairness doctrine. The end of the fairness doctrine, coupled with vast amounts of right wing money, made possible the emergence of an empire of right-wing talk radio programs that were to have a great impact in speeding a rightward political realignment.
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.
- Sherman De Brosse
- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!