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HIST212: Introduction to United States History - Reconstruction to the Present

Unit 10: The Conservative Ascendancy - The "Reagan Revolution"   America’s defeat in the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate Scandal plunged the nation into a period of popular discontent with political institution and leaders. Gerald Ford, Nixon’s Republican successor, did little to alleviate this discontent and voters elected Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter to replace him in 1976. Carter won voters with his folksy personality and his “outside the Beltway” credentials, but his popularity faded as an oil crisis, economic stagnation, and rampant inflation plunged the nation into an economic recession. 
 
In 1980, frustrated voters elected Ronald Reagan, the former Governor of California, president. Reagan’s optimism and his moderate-conservative political views appealed to many Americans. Reagan also promoted an aggressive foreign agenda and called for renewed U.S. military strength in the ongoing Cold War with the Soviets. Under Reagan’s administration, the U.S. economy improved and his firm stance with the Soviet Union led to unexpected diplomatic opportunities. 
 
In this unit, we will evaluate the Carter and Reagan years and examine Reagan’s economic and political legacy. We will also look at the role his policies may have played in the bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991.    

Unit 10 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

☐    Subunit 10.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 10.2: 4 hours

☐    Unit 10 Assessment: 1 hour

Unit10 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • explain how economic, political and social trends in the 1980s and 1990s shaped life in the United States and altered America’s place within the global community;
  • analyze and interpret primary source documents from the twentieth century, using historical research methods; and
  • identify the causes for the end of the Cold War.

  • Reading: America.gov’s Outline of U.S. History: “Chapter 13: Decades of Change—1960-1980” and “Chapter 14: The New Conservatism and a New World Order” Links: America.gov’s Outline of U.S. History: “Chapter 13: Decades of Change—1960-1980” and “Chapter 14: The New Conservatism and a New World Order” (PDF)

    Instructions: Read the final section of Chapter 13 titled “The Carter Years” and Chapter 14 from the beginning through the section titled “U.S.—Soviet Relations.”
     
    Note on the Text: These chapters focus on the domestic and international challenges that President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan faced from the late 1970s through the late 1980s. They also address important changes in American society during this era.
     
    Reading these chapters should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: The material above is available in the public domain. 

10.1 The Carter Years   10.1.1 Economic Crisis at Home   - Web Media: University of California College Prep’s US History Course: “Unit 11: Toward a New Century, Chapter 26: Imperial Presidency, Lesson 79—Ford, Carter, and Reagan” Presentation Link: University of California College Prep’s US History Course“Unit 11: Toward a New Century, Chapter 26: Imperial Presidency, Lesson 79—Ford, Carter, and Reagan” Presentation (Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on “Start Lesson” to launch the video. Watch section 2 of the presentation called “Jimmy Carter.” Read the accompanying text. In section 2, “Jimmy Carter,” click and read the accompanying text, “Iranian Hostages,” and read an excerpt from the diary of an American hostage in Iran in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis.
 
Note on the Media: Section two discusses the presidency of Democrat Jimmy Carter. Carter entered office on a wave of popular support after the turbulent years of the Nixon and Ford presidencies. A growing economic recession at home coupled with a hostage crisis in Iran led many to question his leadership abilities. In the 1980 election, Republican Ronald Reagan swept to victory with a new conservative agenda for the nation.

 Reading the text and watching the video should take approximately
30 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

10.1.2 Diplomatic Crisis Abroad   - Reading: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “Beyond Watergate: The Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Years, America 1974 - 2001” Link: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “Beyond Watergate: The Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Years, America 1974 - 2001” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this webpage down through the section, “The Rise of Conservatism”.

 Note that this webpage addresses the Iran Hostage Crisis that began
in 1979 when Iranian revolutionaries took staff hostage at the
American embassy in Tehran. The hostage crisis lasted 444 days.
President Carter had no leverage over the situation and faced
growing public criticism for his handling of it.  

 Reading this webpage should take approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

10.2 The Reagan Revolution   - Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “The 1980s: The Reagan Era” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “The 1980s: The Reagan Era (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this video.

 Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 35 minutes.

10.2.1 Rebirth of American Conservatism   - Web Media: University of California College Prep’s US History Course: “Unit 11: Toward a New Century, Chapter 26: Imperial Presidency, Lesson 79—Ford, Carter, and Reagan” presentation Link: University of California College Prep’s US History Course: “Unit 11: Toward a New Century, Chapter 26: Imperial Presidency, Lesson 79—Ford, Carter, and Reagan” Presentation (Flash)
 
Instructions: Click on the “Start Lesson” button to launch the video presentation. Watch section 3 of the presentation titled “Ronald Reagan” and read the accompanying text. In this section click and read the accompanying text, “Communism Collapses” and read a President Ronald Reagan’s speech in 1983 in which he advocated a strong stance against the Soviet Union and the advance of Communism.
 
Note on the Media: Section three discusses the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan capitalized on public dissatisfaction with Carter’s administration to win a landslide election to the presidency in 1980. Reagan pursued a conservative agenda as president and supported tax breaks, deregulation, and other objectives intended to improve the economic situation in the United States.
 
Reading this text and watching the video should take approximately 30 minutes.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

10.2.2 Reagan: Domestic Policies   - Reading: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “Beyond Watergate: The Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Years, America 1974 - 2001” Link: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “Beyond Watergate: The Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Years, America 1974 - 2001” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to the section titled “The Reagan Years” and read down through the section titled “Growth of the Christian Right”. Note that this webpage discusses Ronald Reagan’s economic policies and his efforts to stimulate the American economy through federal income tax cuts. His presidency experienced a period of sustained economic growth that lasted until the early 1990s.

 Reading this resource should take approximately 15 minutes.   
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

10.2.3 Reagan: International Agenda   - Lecture: Player.FM: New Books in Foreign Policy: James Mann’s “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War” Link: Player.FM: New Books in Foreign Policy: James Mann’s “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War” (mp3)
 
Instructions: Listen to this interview.

 Note that this interview focuses on Reagan’s foreign policy and his
diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold
War.  

 Listening to this lecture should take approximately 1 hour.  
    

Terms of Use: This video is licensed under an
[Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/). It is
attributed to the New Books Network Player FM Series, and the
original version can be found
[here](http://player.fm/series/new-books-in-foreign-policy/james-mann-the-rebellion-of-ronald-reagan-a-history-of-the-end-of-the-cold-war).
  • Reading: The History Place: Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall” Speech Link: The History Place: Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall” Speech (PDF)
      
    Instructions: Read this speech. 
     
    Note on the Media: In one of the most memorable speeches of his two presidential terms, Ronald Reagan in 1987 summarizes U.S. and Soviet relations over the previous 40 years and appeals to Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev to come to Berlin and end the political and military divisions that have split Europe since the end of World War II. After reading (or listening) to this speech, consider the following questions: How does President Reagan contrast the status of democratic and totalitarian states? Why would these differences be of particular interest to people in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev?

    Reading this speech and reflecting on the questions should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above is available in the public domain. 

10.2.4 The Reagan Legacy   - Reading: Foreign Policy in Focus: Stephen Zunes’ “Don’t Credit Reagan for Ending the Cold War” Link: Foreign Policy in Focus: Stephen Zunes’ “Don’t Credit Reagan for Ending the Cold War” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article in which the author offers his own assessment of Ronald Reagan’s role in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

Unit 10 Assessment   - Assignment: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Conservative Ascendancy” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Conservative Ascendancy (PDF)

 Instructions: Complete this written assignment. When you are
finished, check your work against this [“Guide to
Responding](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/HIST212-Guide-to-Responding-Unit10.FINAL_.pdf)[”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/HIST212-Guide-to-Responding-Unit10.FINAL_.pdf)(PDF).  

 Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.