The Reagan Revolution, 1964-Present

He may just be the most influential political figure of a generation, catapulting his conservative political philosophy to great success in late 20th and early 21st century.  So much so, that– as many analysts have noted– he forced even his Democratic opposition to change so significantly that Bill Clinton announced the “era of big government is over.”  But at the center of all this may have also been one of the most enigmatic of our presidents.  Sharp debates over Ronald Reagan began during his administration and have by no means lessened in continuing years.  Was he a genius who engineered a decisive shift in governmental direction and policy attitudes, or a spokesman for far craftier advisors and public relations specialists who surrounded him?  Was he man of great moral principles and “family values,” or a mischievous mastermind behind the Iran-Contra scandal?  Did he produce a generation of young people today who revere American greatness with his infectious optimism, or a generation who have grown deeply cynical about their democratically elected leaders and government?  We will address not only these concerns, but look backward to understand the context which helped create the enormous popularity of Reagan, and forward to see his legacies.