Course Syllabus

The Reagan Revolution:

The Conservative Transformation of

American Politics and Culture, 1964– Present

History/Political Science 390

Fall 2013

Dr. Chris Schutz

Office: Durham 203C

Phone: 746-5321


Professor’s Website:

Course Website:

Required Books:

• Frank, Thomas. What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Owl Books, 2005.

• Kotlowitz, Alex. There are No Children Here. Anchor, 1992.

• Martin, William. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books, 1996.

• Schaller, Michael and George Rising. The Republican Ascendancy: American Politics, 1968-2001. Harlan Davidson, 2002.

• Story, Ronald and Bruce Laurie. The Rise of Conservatism in America, 1945-2000. Boston: Bedford, 2008.

Course Theme:

Ronald Reagan 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 through his largely anti-government stance? 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.

Course Requirements:

Reading: You should read your assigned readings carefully not just for factual information, but for the authors’ arguments as well, and come to class fully prepared to discuss them intelligently. In the Course Schedule, you will find reading dates assigned to the dates where those readings will be discussed in class. It may be necessary to add additional reading assignments as the course progresses.

Internet Readings: When “Internet Readings” is listed in the course schedule you should go my web page at “,” click on “History Web Links,” and then follow the directions listed in the Course Schedule (i.e., look for the page listed in the Course Schedule, click on it, then find the subsection listed in the Course Schedule, locate the reading listed and click on that reading).

Exams: There will be two written exams in the class. The first will be a midterm exam held in class on Thursday, September 26. The other will be your final exam. Any makeups for those exams will require valid medical documentation or my approval prior to the date of the exam. (Please note: the burden of acquiring that approval falls on the student seeking it. That is, the student simply leaving a message without having an actual conversation with me will not suffice). All makeups must be taken within one week of the original scheduled exam, or risk that exam grade becoming a 0.

Quizzes: All assignments will be subject to an unannounced “pop quiz” to take place at the beginning of class. Those quizzes, taken together at the semester’s end, will form 25% of your final grade.

General rule on turning in written assignments: Because the subject of the papers will be discussed the day they are turned in, harsh penalties will accrue to papers not turned in at the beginning of class on the date due (since benefitting from the discussion would unfairly advantage authors of late papers).

Student Scholarly Integrity: Any student cheating on exams, plagiarizing on papers, or copying other students’ work on assigned papers will be subject to failure in the entire course.

How to View the Assigned Feature Film: We will watch one feature film in this class: Roger and Me (1989), as part of your paper assignment. I will place it on reserve in the library. It will be available on two-hour reserve for use within the library (you may use one of the library’s VCR/DVD machines– or, your own laptop computer). Those two-hour, in-library copies are not to be removed from the college library at any time to ensure that one copy will always be available for your peer students. I will also place one or more copies for 24-hour use that you may remove and take home for convenience (i.e., in addition to the remaining 2-hour, in-library copy). All my copies of the film, of course, should be returned in a timely fashion according to their restrictions. Indeed, I urge you to return the 24-hour copies to the library as rapidly as possible (i.e., not to use all 24 hours if possible) to be courteous to students following you eager to get the films. You may also have access to the film from online services, video stores, etc. You are welcome to acquire the film in those ways as well. Please note, however: be certain you have the exact title and year of the film (seeing a remake of the film will not suffice). Furthermore, viewing the film outside of class time on your own schedule remains your responsibility. I cannot accept the excuse that you wanted to acquire the film but could not because it was checked out. You simply must allow yourself sufficient time to gain access to the film well before its due date.

Attendance: I will take roll daily, and up to three unexcused (i.e., without documentation from a doctor) absences will suffer no penalties. Roll will be taken at the beginning of class. It is the responsibility of any late student to inform me of your presence in class immediately after class is completed. After that time has passed, you will remain marked as “absent.” Over three absences may result in penalties in the 25% of your class participation and attendance grade. While I will make an effort to repeat any announcements of upcoming assignments or exams, it remains the responsibility of anyone who misses class for catching up on any missed material— including the announcement of any dates (or date changes) in upcoming assignments. Be aware also that, since discussion is a critical part of your grade, missing class may also gradually damage your grade in that area as well (even without exceeding the allotted unexcused absences). Please note: Being present means just that– being present to what is going on in this class. Students asleep, doing work for another class, text messaging, or doing anything else other than what pertains to this class means being absent (and will count as such in my record), and will not be tolerated. Cell phones should be put carefully away during classtime.

Important Note About Class Cancellations: Should inclement weather or other problems force the cancellation of class, you should presume that whatever was scheduled to take place on that cancelled date (exam, reading assignment, mandatory discussion, etc.) will be held on the next available class meeting.

Student Athletes: Because the purpose of permitting only three unexcused absences is to prevent the student from falling behind and suffering academically, student athletes who miss class due to athletic events will be limited in their allowed unexcused absences. Should you miss three (or more) classes due to athletics, then you may not take any unexcused absences in addition to that (if you have two athletic absences you may take one unexcused absence; if you have one athletic absence, you may take two unexcused absences). Exceeding this agreement will damage your attendance and participation grade. Student athletes who miss more than three classes due to athletic events (and have no unexcused absences), of course, will not be penalized; but, student athletes should be especially mindful of the burden such escalating absences will create for their academic performance (and, should thus be particularly vigilant to keep track of assignments, be sure to quickly get good notes from a classmate, etc.). Should an athletic event ever conflict with a mandatory discussion or exam date, you should come see me at least a week in advance to make alternate arrangements.

Students with Disability: Any student who feels she/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a documented disability should contact the Academic Success Center to discuss specific needs. Please contact Dr. Patsy Ging, Director of Learning Support Service for Students with Disabilities at x5237, or via email at It is the students’ responsibility to make initial contact with one of the coordinators in the Academic Success Center. Coordinators: Dr. Patsy Ging/, Dr. Patti pjones/, or Mr. John Gaston at


Course Grade Distribution:                                Course Grade Scale:

Midterm Exam: 15%                                                  A: 92-100/ A- : 90-91

Final Exam: 20%                                                        B+: 88-89/ B: 82-87/ B- : 80-81

Class Participation: 20%                                            C+: 78-79/ C: 72-77/ C-: 70-71

Pop Quizzes: 25%                                                      D+: 68-69/ D: 62-67/ D-: 60-61

Assigned Paper: 20% (due Wed., 5/25)                      F: 0-59

Course Schedule

NOTE: Dates listed below for readings are the days you should arrive in class having already completed the assignments (i.e., the dates do not indicate that you should do the reading that night). All dates are subject to change as course needs dictate, and will be announced in class.

Important Note: Should inclement weather or other problems force the cancellation of class on a scheduled exam (or mandatory discussion) date, you should presume that that exam (or discussion) will be held on the next available class meeting.

A Note on Reading References: Readings from Ronald Story & Bruce Laurie, The Rise of Conservatism in America are denoted by the abbreviation “SL,” with the appropriate numbered document from that book attached. For example, “SL#6" refers to document number 6 (William Buckley’s statement on pp.49-51) in that book. To read the assignments listed as “web link readings,” you should access the course website listed on page one of the syllabus, and click on “Related History Links” to proceed to the appropriate listed links.

The Pre-1960s Republican Challenge (8/22-8/27)

► The Republican Party in the post-WWII years

► the Second Red Scare

► the Eisenhower Years

Thursday, 8/22: Schaller, chap.1, pp.1-13

Tuesday, 8/27: Martin, introduction & chap. 1; SL#6-8; Web link reading > (1) “Ronald Reagan's October 23, 1947 testimony before the anti-Communist HUAC committee” [found under “Ronald Reagan’s Show Business Career” subheading]

The Lean Years: the 1960s (8/29–9/12)

► 1964 Election

► Johnson and the Great Society

Thursday, 8/29: Schaller: Chapter 1, 13-20; Martin, chap.2; SL #9, #12; Web link reading > “Reagan's 1967 California Governor's Inaugural Address” [found under “Reagan’s Early Political Career” subheading]

Tuesday, 9/3: Schaller, chap.1, pp.20-26

A Republican Victory?: the Nixon Years (9/12–9/17)

► Protest and Social Reform Movements

► the Politics of Rage: George Wallace

► Increasing political social divisions of the late 1960s and early 1970s

► Nixon’s Domestic Policies: moderation or regression from reform?

► Watergate

Thursday, 9/12: Martin, chap.3; Schaller, chap.2; SL #14-15

Tuesday, 9/17: Martin, chap. 4-5; Web link readings > (1) “the Huston Plan”; (2) “the Nixon Administration’s Plumbers Unit Documents” [in “Reagan’s Early Political Career” subsection]

Decade of Decline: the 1970s (9/19–10/3)

► the Unlikely Successor: Gerald Ford

► Economic Recession

► Foreign Policy Embarrassments

► Religious Fundamentalism

► Tax Revolt

Thursday, 9/19: Schaller, chap.3, 54-62; SL #22, #24

Tuesday, 9/24: Web link readings > “Reagan’s 1976 Republican Convention Speech” [in “Reagan’s Early Political Career” subsection]

Tuesday, 10/1: Martin, chap.6-7; SL #28

Thursday, 10/3: Martin, chap.8; SL #23; Schaller, chap.3, pp.62-77; Web Link Reading > “President Jimmy Carter’s July 1979 ‘Crisis of Confidence’ Speech’” [in “Reagan’s Early Political Career” subsection]

Thursday, September 26: Midterm Exam

“Morning in America”: the Reagan Administration (10/8–10/29)

► the 1980 Election

► Reagan Domestic Policy: Economics, Race, Social Policy

► “Family Values”

► Reagan Foreign Policy and the “Evil Empire”

Tuesday, 10/8: Schaller, chap.3, pp.77-82; SL #29

Tuesday, 10/15: Schaller, chap.4, pp.83-105; SL #30

Thursday, 10/24: Martin, chap.9-10; SL #31

Tuesday, 10/29: Paper due

The Post-Reagan Reagan Revolution (10/31– 11/26)

► George H.W. Bush

► End of the Cold War

► The Clinton Years

► Republican Resurgence: Contract with America

► the 21st Century & American Power

► the Politics of Values: George W. Bush

Thursday, 10/31: Schaller, chap.4, pp.105-118; Martin, chap.11; Web link reading > (1) “Reagan's speech to the British House of Commons, June 8, 1982”; (2) 1987 Report on the Iran-Contra Scandal in the Reagan administration” [in “Reagan Presidency” subsection]

Tuesday, 11/19: Schaller, chap.5, pp.119-126; Martin, chap.12-13; Web link reading > “1994 Republican Congressmen's ‘Contract With America’” [in “Post-Reagan Administration” subsection]

Thursday, 11/21: Schaller, chap.5, pp.127-154 Martin, Epilogue & Afterword; SL #41-42

Tuesday, 11/26: Mandatory Discussion Day: Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter With Kansas

Tuesday, 12/3: Schaller, Conclusion; Reserve Readings