James Thane's Reviews > The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008

The Age of Reagan by Sean Wilentz
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Sep 07, 2011

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Sean Wilentz chronicles the political history of the United States from 1974 through the election of 2000, with an epilogue that carries the story through 2008, summarizing the principal consequences of the administration of George W. Bush. He argues that Ronald Reagan was the dominant political figure of the era, bringing into its own a conservative revolution that had its origins in the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater.

Wilentz suggests that the Reagan administration was a significant departure even from the more moderate (by contemporary Republican standards)Nixon administration, and that the Carter and Clinton administrations were only temporary setbacks in the conservative effort to roll back the reforms of FDR's New Deal, Truman's Fair Deal, Kennedy's New Frontier and Johnson's Great Society.

The author suggests, without saying as much specifically, that Bill Clinton may have squandered the chance to turn back the conservative tide by handing his enemies on the Far Right a golden opportunity to demonize him and, by extension, the Democratic party as a result of his personal conduct.

Wilentz does document the exhaustive efforts by some conservatives to destroy Clinton and his administration by any means, fair or foul, and he describes how energized Republicans outmanuevered the Democrats to hand Florida's electoral votes and thus the election of 2000 to George W. Bush. The author argues that the Reagan revolution reached fruition in the GWB administration, having accomplished its main objectives of cutting taxes for the wealthy, significantly curtailing government regulation of the economy, and concentrating even more power in the executive branch at the expense of Congress. It remains to be seen, of course, what the larger consequences of this revolution will be for the people of the United States going forward into the 21st century. Anyone interested in the contemporary history of the United States will find this a balanced and interesting account of the period.
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message 1: by Kurt (new)

Kurt Reichenbaugh I'm hoping the replican religious pandering and fear of science, not to mention the hypocracies, eventually backfire. Unfortunately that's all smoke and mirrors when it comes to the guys "behind the curtain" who benefit the most by the policies of the "conservative" right.

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