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Morning in America

Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980's

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Morning in America
    Book Description:

    Did America's fortieth president lead a conservative counterrevolution that left liberalism gasping for air? The answer, for both his admirers and his detractors, is often "yes." In Morning in America, Gil Troy argues that the Great Communicator was also the Great Conciliator. His pioneering and lively reassessment of Ronald Reagan's legacy takes us through the 1980s in ten year-by-year chapters, integrating the story of the Reagan presidency with stories of the decade's cultural icons and watershed moments-from personalities to popular television shows.

    One such watershed moment was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. With the trauma of Vietnam fading, the triumph of America's 1983 invasion of tiny Grenada still fresh, and a reviving economy, Americans geared up for a festival of international harmony that-spurred on by an entertainment-focused news media, corporate sponsors, and the President himself-became a celebration of the good old U.S.A. At the Games' opening, Reagan presided over a thousand-voice choir, a 750-member marching band, and a 90,000-strong teary-eyed audience singing "America the Beautiful!" while waving thousands of flags.

    Reagan emerges more as happy warrior than angry ideologue, as a big-picture man better at setting America's mood than implementing his program. With a vigorous Democratic opposition, Reagan's own affability, and other limiting factors, the eighties were less counterrevolutionary than many believe. Many sixties' innovations went mainstream, from civil rights to feminism. Reagan fostered a political culture centered on individualism and consumption-finding common ground between the right and the left.

    Written with verve, Morning in America is both a major new look at one of America's most influential modern-day presidents and the definitive story of a decade that continues to shape our times.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4930-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction Ronald Reagan’s Defining Vision for the 1980s—and America
    (pp. 1-23)

    One day in 1924, a thirteen-year-old boy joined his parents and older brother for a leisurely Sunday drive roaming the lush Illinois countryside. Trying on eyeglasses his mother had misplaced in the backseat, he discovered that he had lived life thus far in a “haze” filled with “colored blobs that became distinct” when he approached them. Recalling the “miracle” of corrected vision, he would write: “I suddenly saw a glorious, sharply outlined world jump into focus and shouted with delight.”

    Six decades later, as president of the United States of America, that extremely nearsighted boy had become a contact lens–...

  4. 1980 Cleveland “There You Go Again!” Defeating Defeatism—and Jimmy Carter
    (pp. 24-49)

    Even though he was president of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, Jimmy Carter was nervous. True, he dismissed his opponent, Ronald Reagan, as a lightweight. But three weeks before the November 1980 presidential election, the numbers were looking soft.

    It had not been an easy twelve months, with the crown prince of Camelot, Senator Edward Kennedy, challenging Carter for the Democratic Party nomination, the Iranians kidnapping American diplomats, the Russians invading Afghanistan, the military failing to free the hostages, and special prosecutors investigating brother Billy’s lobbying for Libya. Besides, American morale was down, and the economy...

  5. 1981 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue The Ronald Reagan Show, the New Dynasty, and David Stockman’s Reaganomics
    (pp. 50-83)

    Ronald Reagan ambled into office amid a grand display of inaugural opulence. Not since the Kennedy debut twenty years before had an inauguration made such a cultural stir. And, as John Kennedy had, Ronald Reagan deputized Frank Sinatra to fete him in style. The legendary singer represented Reagan’s Hollywood roots and the journey so many “Reagan Democrats” traveled from the New Deal to this new dynasty.

    The president’s thousand-dollar morning suit, the First Lady’s $10,000 gown, the sixteen-million-dollar inaugural price tag, the private planes landing at National (soon to be Reagan) Airport, the limousines deployed on the ground, and the...

  6. 1982 Hill Street The Other America’s Blues
    (pp. 84-114)

    Every Thursday night, the ritual would be repeated. The tall, muscular, aging sergeant, a classic blue-collar ethnic hero, would review his troops. The outfit included Bobby Hill and Andy Renko, the cool black cop coupled with the cranky but lovable redneck; Lucy Bates and Joe Coffey, the lonely but competent female cop coupled with the handsome, irrepressible ex-jock. Within minutes, plot lines would be forming, dialogue would be flying, camera angles jumping. The Sarge would dismiss the officers, then remind them, after silencing the din: “Let’s be careful out there.”

    Nearly seven years and sixteen Emmy Awards later, the location...

  7. 1983 Beaufort, South Carolina The Big Chill and the Great Reconciliation: Where the Sixties Meet the Eighties
    (pp. 115-146)

    The Big Chill. Within weeks of its 1983 release it was no longer just a movie, but an event, a defining moment in the collective annals of the baby boom generation and the 1980s. Two decades later, the phrase remains resonant. People reuniting with old friends from high school, college, or camp speak of having a “Big Chill weekend.”

    Surprisingly, “Big Chill” did not originally mean a chance to “chill together,” or hang out. Lawrence Kasdan titled his movie after the big chill that ran down his spine when a colleague said something politically offensive and Kasdan said nothing, fearing...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 1984 Los Angeles The Wizard of America’s Id Chooses Patriotism over Politics
    (pp. 147-174)

    It remains one of the great American political mysteries—how did Ronald Reagan pull it off ? If the opposition to Reagan was more intense than remembered—which it was; if blacks and women and intellectuals felt so marginalized—which they did; if the economy wavered and the poll ratings sagged, how did Reagan win reelection by a landslide? How did this president, who would be described within three years by some of his own aides as doddering, out of touch, ineffectual, succeed?

    In 1984, and throughout the Reagan years, Democrats would often answer by shouting, “We wuz robbed!” Reagan’s...

  10. 1985 Brooklyn, New York Bill Cosby’s Multicultural America Meets Ronald Reagan’s Celebrity Presidency
    (pp. 175-203)

    Even as Ronald Reagan celebrated an old-fashioned, small-town, white-bread America, a new, urbanized, and dizzyingly diverse country emerged. Racism persisted. Yet two decades after Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, blacks were integrating neighborhoods and attending formerly lily-white elite schools. They worked as doctors, lawyers, and executives in previously closed professions, as well as cops, firemen, and electricians in once closed unions. And two decades after Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 immigration reforms shelved the 1920s’ Eurocentric national origins acts, immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America had changed the face of America. When Jesse Jackson talked about a rainbow coalition,...

  11. 1986 Wall Street The Wild, Wild East and the Reagan Money Culture
    (pp. 204-234)

    Ronald Reagan wanted to free Americans from big government’s grip, to liberate America’s capitalist spirit. By repeating his antistatist, procapitalist mantra obsessively, he made the Reagan boom a celebration of free enterprise, a vindication of his philosophy. Yet even while unleashing many Americans’ inner capitalist, Reagan echoed America’s traditional ambivalence about excess. He often affirmed “the great civilized truths—values of family, work, neighborhood, and religion.”

    Alas, with the president, as with the nation, consumerism’s seductive force overran the rhetorical obeisance to morality or a traditional way of life. As a result, Reaganite values-talk often functioned as a posture, a...

  12. 1987 Mourning in America Fiascos at Home and Abroad
    (pp. 235-264)

    White House strategists anticipated a great moment, a meeting of two eloquent defenders of democracy: the strapping, perpetually jaunty president and the wispy writer, a Holocaust refugee, grateful to his president and his adopted nation. On April 19, 1985, Ronald Reagan awarded the Romanian-born novelist Elie Wiesel the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement. The president thanked the writer for helping “to make the memory of the Holocaust eternal by preserving the story of the six million Jews in his work,” and “for a life that’s dedicated to others.”

    Having “learned that in extreme situations when human lives and dignity are...

  13. 1988 Stanford The Culture Wars: Closing and Opening the American Mind
    (pp. 265-296)

    “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go,” the marchers chanted. Egged on by Jesse Jackson, relishing the media attention, the students from Stanford University, California’s most exclusive school, rejected “Eurocentric, white male” culture. “We’re tired of reading books by dead white guys,” one editorial snapped. Here was one of the 1980s’ strangest legacies. Amid Reagan’s all-American revival, an articulate minority opted out, repudiating fundamental American values.

    The Battle of Stanford yielded an enduring image: Jesse Jackson’s multicultural march against Western civilization versus Secretary of Education William Bennett’s pro-Western stand. In May 1988 the National Review would fume that...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 1989 Kennebunkport, Maine The Bush Restoration: Kinder, Gentler, but Still Reaganite
    (pp. 297-324)

    It was a surprisingly intimate photograph of a usually reserved couple. The vice president of the United States was in his pajamas. His matronly wife was in a bathrobe, her signature pearls nowhere in sight. The two sat propped up in their king-sized bed in a sun-drenched, oversized bedroom with a majestic view of Maine’s craggy coast. Ignoring the paisley drapes and the built-in bookshelves, six young grandchildren scurried about, transforming the scene from one of imperial prerogative to “family values,” to use a phrase that would be overused during his presidency.

    A year later, in August 1988, the Republican...

  16. 1990 Boston First Night, New Decade: Why So Blue?
    (pp. 325-348)

    It had become a fitting metaphor for the media age. The last night of the year would start, typically, with friends and loved ones armed with party hats and tooters, crammed into a room festooned with streamers. Rather than watching their own clocks, or speaking to each other, as the magic hour approached, they would turn on the television set. At once, all eyes focused on the electron-filled box. Only after Guy Lombardo or Johnny Carson counted down and yelled “Happy New Year” would the kissing and champagne popping commence. Only after the New Year’s TV show started things off...

  17. A Note on Method and Sources
    (pp. 349-356)
  18. A Guide to Abbreviations in Notes
    (pp. 357-358)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 359-392)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 393-396)
  21. Index
    (pp. 397-418)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 419-420)